Write NowHow a mother helped her daughter to become a published author by age sevenPhoto courtesy of Rowena Roberts
Editor’s note: This is the second mother-daughter pair featured in Write Now. The first, Lan Cao and Harlan Margaret Van Cao, explored writing a memoir together. Rowena and her daughter seven-year-old daughter, Maddie, developed a creativity-journal for kids. It’s incredibly inspiring to see children exploring their creativity. Enjoy this interview.
Who are you?
We are mum-of-two Rowena Roberts and daughter Maddie, living in Greater Manchester in the UK.
Rowena is a creativity coach for writing and wellbeing at Words Inspire. Maddie is a bright spark full of enthusiasm, love and, whenever possible, juicy ripe mango.
What do you write?
Maddie: I write in my WOW Journal. It helps me to imagine lovely things, and think about what makes me say “Wow!”. And it helps me to practise drawing and thinking up cool stories.
I like writing because it helps me to express myself, kind of like my mummy. And I can write cards and lovely messages for people. I like helping people to feel happy. That’s why I created The WOW Journal — to help kids feel happy.
Rowena: I’ve kept a journal on and off since the days of melodramatic teenage poetry and heartfelt letters to friends that only a fifteen-year-old girl can write. It’s kept me sane over the years, bringing me clarity through confusion, brightness through shadow work, creative flow through mental blocks.
When Maddie came up with idea of The WOW Journal for kids during COVID lockdown in the UK, I knew straight away that it could be something amazing. Gratitude journaling is big for adults, but most children don’t conceive of gratitude in the same way. They don’t look at, say, a beautiful flower, or a snowy day and feel gratitude for it; they feel awe, amazement, joy, wonder, love. And what do they say?
Photo courtesy of Rowena Roberts
By focusing on the wows in their lives, children naturally build habits that give them greater appreciation of and curiosity for the world around them, enabling them to experience more moments of happiness, live more in the present moment, and reflect on what truly brings them joy.
I’m currently writing my own book on “enlighterment” — a journey through the spiritual struggles that come upon us in life, which we may stumble upon by accident through exploring “personal development”, coming to terms with incessant anxiety or depression, fighting against bewildering anger, or anything else that makes us stop and question the trajectory of our lives, and start to look for deeper truths.
“Enlighterment”, then, is not about finding God, or the answer to the mystery of life; it’s simply the realisation of the layers of our human nature — our awareness, the space behind the chattering mind — and the movement towards allowing what arises in that space to become the dominant focus in our lives, instead of what arises in our minds. Finding, in short, a lighter way of being. Certain practices can help us to find that space — and looking for and paying attention to what wows us in life is a big step in the right direction.
Where do you write?
Maddie: I write mostly in my WOW Journal, in the living room at the table. That’s where I spend a lot of time. I also like to write messages for my mummy for her to find on her desk. And I like writing outside on the ground in chalk.
I write at my desk in my office. I write in my bed at night. I keep a small notebook in the kitchen, in which I scribble random thoughts, phrases, ideas that come up while I’m cooking. I have another notebook that I take with me for reflections and observations during solitary excursions — going out for a walk, or sitting in a coffee shop.
I call it “writing in the cracks”: this practice of being open to words coming through whenever they want to. It prevents me from sinking into the belief that so often causes people to shelves their dreams of being a writer — the notion that you need solid chunks of time with you and a laptop, no distractions, enthusiastic mindset in place, in order for inspiration to strike.
Yes, you do need chunks of time to work on your writing. But inspiration lies in each and every moment, and it can give you the motivation you need to carve out those larger spaces of time in order to follow a line that the breeze whispered to you at the top of a hill, or tease out the details of a character who came to you when you watched the teary-eyed woman allow her cup of tea to gradually cool, untouched, for half an hour in your local cafe.
When do you write?
Maddie: I write when something makes me say “Wow!” Or when I feel happy. Or when I want to make someone else feel happy — I can make them a card, or write them a letter.
Rowena: Aside from writing in the cracks, I love to write at night. Hours and hours of quiet time that slip by seemingly unchanging, with nothing to do but either follow the flow or succumb to sleep. Definitely not good for my mood in the morning — but so blissful at the time.
Why do you write?
Maddie: I love to write about my love. To make other people feel happy. And to, I don’t know, express my love. It makes me feel happy — even happier than I already am.
Rowena: I can’t not. It’s how I make sense of the world, overcome problems and worries, bring clarity to my thoughts and move past them to deeper layers of understanding. It’s how I move my mind through whatever it chooses to fixate on — and how I make my small contribution to creating more truth and beauty in the world.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
Maddie: I don’t know! I only write when I want to. If I get stuck for ideas, I ask my mummy for help.
Rowena: I have so many exercises to help my clients overcome this! One that I personally love to play with is to personify the block.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Invite your block to approach you. What does it look like? What does it smell like? Describe it in metaphor — if it were a taste, or a sound, what would that be? What is its attitude like? Where does it live? What are its habits? Finally, and most importantly, what does it want to say to you?
Turn your block into a character, feel into its energy and hear what it has to say, and you can learn some valuable insights into what is going on. And if you can find the answer to the ultimate question — what is it afraid of? — that’s the first step towards brainstorming ways that you can move past it. Imagination is the cornerstone of your creativity — use it not just when you write, but to help you to write.
Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Maddie: I cuddle my mummy! And I have fun. I love doing arts and crafts, playing with my soft toys, playing games on my tablet. I’m doing a sewing project — it’s hard work, but it’s fun. I like solving riddles, and learning about the solar system. And today I’m going to love building a snowman — yay!
Rowena: I love to sing, to walk in nature, to meditate. I love to read and think; to explore my intuition and find guidance for my life. I love to cook while listening to audiobooks and scribbling down lines that leap out at me. I love listening to rock music and dancing like crazy with my kids.
Spending time with my family is what I love the most. I only have a few years with my children before they head off on their own adventures. They remind me of what’s important: love, play, fun, wonder, learning and true authenticity. They trigger me as well, of course, which I used to struggle with, but which I now regard as valuable, too.
I’m learning full appreciation of the gifts of life in the moment. On reflection, that’s probably what brought me to the “enlighterment” that I’m writing about now. Or, in Maddie’s words, that’s what makes me say: “Wow!”
Write Now is a weekly interview series created by Justin Cox. Hungry for more writing advice? Sign up for Justin’s newsletter, Eat Your Words, today!
Write Now with Rowena and Maddie Roberts was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Read more: writingcooperative.com