31 July 2018

Embracing the Middle Ground

So recently I got this rejection:
The tone of your novel was a bit confusing: you place it alongside Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer (which is appropriate for the plot and we love them) but there is clear lust between the main characters which feels more appropriate to a steamier kind of regency romance (such as ones by Lisa Keyplas and Lindsay Sands, who we also love). We wanted you to decide if you wanted something completely restrained or completely indulgent but not halfway. Our taste is subjective… etc etc
This is the first time I’ve received this particular critique about the level of steaminess. Usually I get comments like – this is half way between historical fiction (literary) and historical romance (commercial). So this one threw me for a bit of a loop. And it made me wonder – are there really no books out there that are neither sweet nor spicy? Really?

The thing is – this middle ground is what I love to read, what I want to binge-watch: stories, whether contemporary or period-based, with spine-tingling, tear-inducing romance, but without explicit sex or anything crass. Think Patricia Veryan, Carla Kelly, or Kristan Higgins, and think Downton Abbey or Gilmore Girls. I want to feel the longing, see the conflict, eat up the tension, but I don’t need to actually see or read them getting it on. In fact that middle-ground between the initial attraction and the eventual fulfillment is the best part. That’s the heart of the romance, for me. A kiss (or kisses) is enough to show they are on their way to a happily ever after that is physically as well as emotionally and intellectually satisfying.

So many times I have seen the advice: write what you love, write what you want to read, write what only you can write. I embrace that. I embrace wanting to be in the middle of high- and low-brow. I embrace loving romance, wanting maximum romance, but not crossing the line into “steamy”. I don’t see why I should be “completely restrained” or “completely indulgent” when I can have my cake and eat it too, in the middle. And I’m not the only one… am I?

16 July 2018

Mummy Brain – The Struggle is Real!

Sleepless. Overjoyed. Frustrated. Elated. Isolated, but no time for me.

The life of a new mother is relentless. So rewarding. So punishing. So brain-numbingly tedious but emotionally stressful. At the end of the day creativity is at an all-time low, and the struggle to get the rear end off the couch or do anything other on the laptop than peruse emails or social media is all but hopeless.

But I know I need to fuel the creative fire to feel alive again. To feel like me. I am a writer. And that means that occasionally, once in a while… I should actually create some words. Fictional words in extraordinary worlds which only live in my imagination, where stories dwell that only I can tell. It’s just even harder than ever to find the headspace, let alone the energy, to let the juices flow and feel the wonderful reward (as well as the agony) of creation. All my mental power is consumed by nap times and durations, creating ever changing menus, getting to activities on time and whether I'm doing white or colours washing. I can't even remember what I did this morning. Creating fake people from scratch is a little challenging.

My most productive period in the past was after 8:30pm, when I gave myself a deadline each night to turn off the TV/internet/whatever and just write something, even for half an hour. That would frequently turn into two hours or more once I was in flow. Now at 8:30 my husband and I tend to look at each other and drowsily debate what else we will do before going to bed.

You would think that being home all day would lead to more productivity, not less. But naptime is dominated by trying to catch up housework, life admin, attempting to connect with other humans and… maybe, personal hygiene. And given I may have been up for much of the night before, mustering the drive to be creative is challenging to say the least.

Now I am back at work, and needing to cram in mothering/wifing/lifing into even smaller slots. On the weekend my husband is so busy trying to be helpful, it’s very difficult to have him be solo-daddy for an hour or so, so I can get into my writing.

But I know I need to give myself the time and space to write. I need to make a routine, the same way I do for other essential parts of my life, now that we have more structure in our lives. I don’t have the answer yet. But I have the will. And I hope that is a good start.

How have other mothers got their mojo back? Please share your strategies for regaining this important part of becoming yourself again!