Interview: Alison Lock on motherhood and creativity

I am delighted to be able to post yet another wonderful interview on the Mother’s Milk Books blog – this time from poet Alison Lock whose beautiful poem ‘On the Carpet’ – which featured in Musings on Mothering – really struck a chord with me. Thank you again, Alison, for taking part!


Alison Lock is a writer of poetry and short stories and a facilitator of Life Writing courses. She is also the mother of four sons and has always been interested in the ways that creativity can support and nurture the time spent together during the early days of parenthood. Her first collection of poetry, A Slither of Air, was published in 2011 and her collection of short stories, Above the Parapet, was published in 2013 by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

1. Have you always considered yourself to be a creative person?

I think everyone is creative but it comes out in different ways. For me, I have always been involved in some creative activity, whether it be playing music, sewing, felt-making, or writing poetry and short stories. When the children were young I liked to go on walks with them and gather leaves, twigs, stones; anything for making collages etc. I never really thought of it as being creative, it was just what we did. Now I believe that even if there is no visible output we cannot help ourselves but be creative – it might be simply that we bring our creative side to how we read a bedtime story, the expressions we use, the way we draw on our own experiences in the telling of a story. I am particularly drawn to the imaginative, the eclectic, the irregular things in life.

2. Has motherhood enhanced your creativity? If yes, in what way and why do you think it has enhanced your creativity?

I have been a mother for longer than I have not — with 18 years between my youngest and my eldest — and, of course, once embarked on, motherhood never ends, so it is difficult to imagine what I would be doing if parenting had not been my primary role. Creativity has been a necessary part of this process and has seen me through some difficult times. These days I write and although my writing is not overtly therapeutic I can see that elements of my life are reflected there. It is inevitable that we draw on our own life experiences, if only subconsciously; sometimes they form the mere shadow of a story.

3. Do you have any tips on how to find time for your creative work amongst the everyday busyness?

Nowadays, I am very focused on my writing and once the school day has started I retreat to my office. I know that if I begin my day with housework, my opportunity will slip away. I admire those people who are more organized than I am but it is not the way I work. I am ashamed to admit that I do not even write lists.

4. What does breastfeeding mean to you?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read Penny Stanway’s Breast is Best — a bible for the positive effects of breastfeeding in its time. I wanted to give my child all the benefits that are associated with breastfeeding but unfortunately things did not go to plan (although my subsequent babies were successfully breast fed) and I was left feeling guilty. I still do believe that breast is best but I am aware that things do not always go to plan and that it is important to be supportive to all mothers whatever their choice.

5. Were there any pieces in Musings on Mothering that spoke to you particularly?

Musing on Mothering is a beautiful book. It shares everything about being a mother (and a father too) expressed through prose and poetry, photography and artwork. It is about the joys and the sorrows too. It is about uniqueness and similarities and it is about sharing and communicating and reaching out to mothers at moments when mothering can seem a lonely and a thankless task. There is so much richness, so much experience and generosity gone into this book and I believe that all new parents will find nourishment there to help them through the darkest nights.

6. Are you working on any particular project right now?

I am putting together another poetry collection, I am rehearsing a long poem to be performed with a musician, I am writing a novel for young adults, and I am also in the process of writing some new short stories. I know, it sounds impossible, but I like to have too much to do!

7. Is there any one piece of work that you are particularly proud of?

I think that has to be my first collection of poetry, A Slither of Air. Like most first books, whether they are novels or collections of poetry, they often come about as a kind of build up of experiences and a tipping out of words and thoughts and ideas. I was so delighted to be offered the chance to have my work published and it opened the door to so much more.

8. Is there any one person (or persons) that you consider to be a true inspiration to you?

Although there are inevitably some, whether artists or not, who have influenced my life, I cannot pick out one and say that they are my inspiration. There are too many people to be admired, many who do good works in all walks of life.

9. Is there any one piece of art or music, or writing that has influenced you, or inspired you to continue creating?

I sometimes find that listening to music or visiting an art gallery will trigger new ideas, often they are the unexpected things, or the unplanned visit. I visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park when I get a chance too. I find the outdoors is the best place to think. At home I listen to my collection of old vinyl records.

10. What would you to say to someone who doesn’t consider themselves a creative person, but would like to try their hand at something new?

As I said before, I believe we are all creative, but it is finding the source and the channel that suits us best. There are many arts and crafts to try out and I would say – indulge yourself, don’t be afraid to try something new; give yourself the opportunity to explore your creative side and you never know where it might lead…