A Writerly Life: George Eliot

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
― George Eliot

Eliot was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.

With regard to finding her writing dreams, if she could it in the Victorian era, we can do it today!

Advertisements

A Writerly Life: Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou’s 1969 memoir, made literary history as the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman.

Have a Passion. Decide to Act. Make Art.

Today, I’m reminded to take solace in the act of creating. A while ago, in one of my PhD classes, the artist Gendron Jensen*, who has spent a lifetime transforming relics from nature – usually bones – into art objects of uncommon beauty, talked with us about art and creating.

Three things he told us resonated profoundly, and I want to share them with you:

1. The very act of creating changes the projection of world history, whether your art is every made public or not. (His point was that making art changes us, which changes our personal behavior and actions, which changes history.)

2. Art needs to be released.

3. Create. Then let in the other.

*Jensen’s drawings are in the collections of such museums as Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He works almost exclusively in graphite on sheets of paper as tall as seven feet, making meticulous renderings of the intricate infrastructures of wildlife.

Gender Socialization Affects the Woman Writer

I’m just going to lay this out there: The rigors of life itself still chip and distance women from their inner lives.

Expecting that women can just take/make the time needed to write ignores the gender socialization that continues to affect the choices that creative women make. In my own experience, I have found that talented and creative women, myself included, still struggle against both societal and personal pressures.

Two decades ago, researcher Livia Pohlman pointed out, that for women, “The conflict between the demands of family life and the tensions inherent in producing creative work may affect adult creativity in numerous and as yet unexplored ways” (p. 3). The women she interviewed found that “their identities were often divided three ways – as a wife, a mother, and a writer – with their sense of self as a writer being in conflict with the gender expectations of being a good wife and mother” (p. 10).

Even though one would anticipate that much would have changed in twenty years, more currently, this same position is supported by Sarah White Bender (and co-writers) who in a research article published in 2013, said, “In place of single-minded devotion to creative work, women’s attention is commonly diverted from creative pursuits to competing interpersonal priorities” (p. 40).

No matter what we’re told, many women who would like to write (or to write more) succumb to a potent brew of upbringing and social expectations, which makes splitting time between the people we love and the creative work we wish to do a wrenching choice.

In her book Art, bell hooks noted, “Most women I encounter (with the exception of a privileged few) feel that we are still struggling against enormous odds to transform both this culture and our everyday lives so that our creativity can be nurtured in a sustained manner” (p. 128).

Our desire to do creative work, in the experience of many women, is treated as an indulgence, and hooks warned us that we cannot wait for ideal circumstances to be in place. She said, “Each of us must invent alternative strategies that enable us to move against and beyond the barriers that stand in our way” (p. 130).

Before you go, ask yourself what alternative strategies can you invent that allow to you nudge things aside to open a space for writing?