CJ Cooke has published 12 books, including THE NESTING (HarperCollins, 2020), the poetry collection BOOM! (Seren, 2014), and, as editor, the anthology WRITING MOTHERHOOD (Seren, 2017). She is the founder of the Stay-At-Home! Literary Festival and is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her work is published in 23 languages. She has 4 children aged 8, 10, 12, and 14.
Who and what inspires you?
People who work hard, love hard, fail hard, and achieve big. We hear so many success stories without getting the full picture, and I’m inspired by people who are real about their setbacks and challenges but who just keep going despite it. First-time successes are myths – there is nothing but graft and perhaps a dash of good fortune behind success, and I’m always inspired by the stories of people who have built their own success, brick by brick.
How do you find time to write as a parent?
I think the answer to this changes so often that I first need to state that it really depends on the situation at home. I’ve always written, and when my children were babies it was so difficult to write but I tried to do it while they were napping, or sometimes my mother-in-law would babysit. I found that I clung to writing during these times as a way of coping.
At the moment, I work full-time, and my children are still young, but they’re at school during the day and they sleep through the night. So I write most often in the evening, often staying up until the wee hours. Recently I’ve started booking an AirBnB every so often when I need to work to a deadline. I can do this now, as my youngest is able to speak to me via FaceTime. She is autistic and for a long time couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t leave her without her being able to tell me she was happy. My husband is now based at home, so it has been possible for me to take off for a few days at a time and go off to a cottage somewhere. This has really given me headspace to get lots of work done – what might have taken three weeks at home would take three days while I was away!
I should say that, although time to write is always a challenge, finding headspace to write is even more so.
So, the short answer is – my writing schedule as a parent changes all the time, often at the drop of a pin.
Which writing activities kickstart your writing when you’re struggling to write?
In my case, I’m usually contracted to write a novel – which is quite a kickstarter! But in times that I haven’t been under contract, I have found that reading often throws up certain responses to things that I want to respond to creatively. Keeping a notebook and jotting my own thoughts and ideas for things that I can develop later has also been useful, and I’ve also found a lot of value in participating in the occasional writing workshop. Being part of a community of writers is probably the most important part of a writing practice – getting feedback and support is essential to developing your craft.
Find out more about CJ Cooke on her website or find her on twitter: @CJessCooke