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

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


Why I Write

Photo by Jena Schwartz

A few years ago, I sat next to a well-known writer at a wedding. I was an aspiring writer then, though I did very little in the way of actual writing. “How did you get to where you are now?” I asked him, eyes wide with admiration. “There’s no secret,” he said, between mouthfuls of salmon. “I just write a lot. And after a while something half-decent comes out.” This was not the answer I was looking for. I wanted a cheat sheet, a keyboard shortcut, something that would get me to the destination of being a writer without the slog of the journey. For years afterwards, I read countless books that told me how to write one, books that described the rituals of the great writers so that I too might create one, books that encouraged the cultivation of persistence, though I hadn’t really begun. I just didn’t do much writing. Things changed when I got pregnant. Then, steeped in the fear of impending self-sacrifice, I hurriedly wrote an entire novel. A terrible novel. A novel that will only ever exist as a Word document, unseen, tucked away in the darkest corner of my laptop. I wrote quickly, keeping to a word count, a ticking timer on my pre-parental life. Mom friends had warned me about the ravages of “mom brain” – some had even inferred that it was permanent. I had to get my writing out while the going was good. I had to get to the destination, quick. Except that I didn’t get to a destination. And quick didn’t translate to good.

After I gave birth, I found that “mom brain” was real, but the fog was temporary. When it cleared, it left me with a different, perhaps more lucid, brain. I was amazed by how much I wanted to write. I found myself craving it with such ferocious longing that the first time my son slept through the night, I stayed awake writing, in spite of the heaviness in my limbs, the all-consuming exhaustion. The piece I wrote that night was fine, but the feeling I had while I was writing it was thrilling, a sparkler fizzing in my chest as I scribbled down thoughts. That feeling is the secret the famous writer didn’t reveal. That feeling is why I aim to write every day now, even though sometimes I fall back on the old how-to books as a placebo. Some days the feeling is there but most days it’s not. I guess it’s like a beautiful sunrise: when it comes, it makes all the average days worthwhile for their mediocrity. And when I read back what I’ve written on those beautiful days, I’m surprised to find that, sometimes, something half-decent has come out.


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. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.


Gemma Clarke was born in Sudan and raised in Somalia and London. A former sports writer in the UK, she now works as a screenwriter from her home in NY and is chipping away at a novel that she hopes will see the light of day.

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