Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: The Journey


A guest post to encourage, motivate and inspire...


Starting Again

In the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, I wrote my first novel. That makes it sound so easy, doesn’t it? But it was as much of a labor as the one I was about to have. My belly bulged as I walked down the sidewalk clutching my freshly printed manuscript to my chest. I had three weeks until my due date. Plenty of time to read it. Or so I thought. Two nights later I went into labor and by morning I was a new mother.

In the months that followed, I thought about my novel on occasion, still wrapped in the brown bag from the copy shop, but my baby’s cries and my exhaustion blotted it out. The manuscript resided in a variety of places: on top of my desk, on the floor of my closet, packed in boxes during several moves, and finally, locked in a safe.

That’s right. A safe. And that’s where it remained for five years.

Becoming a mother consumed me. I fell into a hole of sorts and when I emerged I didn’t recognize myself. Was I still a writer? Had I ever been? The novel gathered dust in the safe because I was afraid to read it. If it was terrible, then perhaps I wasn’t a writer after all. Better to keep it safe in the safe. Better to fantasize about its potential.

More time passed, and then one day I got an email about a writer’s conference. As I read about the speakers and panels, I felt a fluttering in my chest. For a brief moment, I worried over the logistics of childcare. Then signed up. Sometimes, you have to leap first and figure out the details later.

The conference felt like a welcoming back. I knew not a single person there, but I loved being surrounded by writers, some published, many not, all of us clutching our navy blue folders, going in and out of lecture halls, talking about books, our dreams.

A switch had been flipped. I started to remember what it felt like, for the first time in years, to be a writer.

A few days later I sat down with that thick ream of paper, my long forgotten manuscript, and read it. Some parts were not as bad as I imagined, some were worse. But the seed of my story, the theme that had moved me years ago, remained.

I would be lying if I said I didn't feel the sting of disappointment that it wasn't better. But after a moment, the feeling dispersed, and I laughed. Relieved. Because in a way, the hardest part was over: starting.

Soon after I began revising--and I’m still at it more than a year later--I've thrown out more words than I've written, and some days it’s harder to continue than others, but I keep on because that’s what writers do, and that’s what I am.


Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. 

Dana Schwartz is a writer and mother living in New Hope, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. She’s had several short stories published in literary journals, and was a contributor to the HerStories Project on female friendship. When not chasing after her children, she’s working on a novel and musing about the creative process on her blog, Writing at the Table. 

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I love this. Thanks for reminding us that what we are endures, even through a period of being blotted out, and also for honoring how disorienting new motherhood can be. xox
Thank you so much Lindsey. It took such a leap of faith to read those old words, but so glad I did.
I'm headed to my first writing conference in May, and I will carry your words with me and try to think of it as "a welcoming back." Thanks for sharing.
So glad you're going, and welcome back indeed. Can't wait to hear how it goes.
So glad you have found your way back to writing again. I love reading your words!
This is so excellent and I love that last line so much.
Yes, you are. Sometimes I worry that everyone else is a "real" writer or a "real" photographer and I'm not. I really need to surround myself and embrace myself in a conference or workshop.
Thank you so much Stacey and Nina! Tamara, you are absolutely a "real" writer, whatever that means, ha, but yes, go to a conference and wear a name tag and sit in on panels. It can be so great to just breathe it all in.
I really like that you remind us writing is a long-term process, not always something to crank out in a few days and a few words. Sometimes letting it sit--for whatever reason--lets us see the whole thing anew. So glad you're back at it!
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