Woman, Writer, Warrior

I’m personally and academically interested in the choices and compromises talented female writers make, more specifically why some women have difficulty giving themselves time and permission to do their writing.

I struggle with my roles as a woman: wife, mother, PhD student, professor, nurturer, and I run out of time and energy to do my creative work. But it has never truly been a problem of time management or writer’s block. Rather the issues run deeper, and for my PhD dissertation, I chose to write a novel and to document my own fluency and resistance as part of my contextualization.

I work up this morning and thought, Holy cow, where did the week go?

This has been a tough writing week for me. I’m 69 thousand-ish words into a draft of my 70 to 80 thousand word romantic mystery novel. And I’m totally overwhelmed about the fact that I’m not writing fast enough, worried that summer, which officially started yesterday, will be over before I can finish my novel, and freaking out because my life is boring (read: wake up, drink coffee and write, and worry about writing).

To put it bluntly, I am, like so many other women writers do, having difficulty giving myself time and permission to do my writing. Even though I need to!

The novel is part of my PhD dissertation – so I have “permission” to write it. If you’re a woman and a writer, you get what I just said – all those hours and hours given to a writing project that were not given to family or work.

I’m trying to cut through and write. But I keep thinking about all the stuff I need to do: clean the house, do the laundry, check work email, call the kids, feed Feral Cat. Feral Cat is a beautiful, but matted tuxedo cat who now lets me pet him, so I’m trying to figure out how to cut his matted fur off without him freaking out. I could do that instead of writing *wink*

So today my plan is to become a writing warrior. To create a writing culture for myself and other women writers that bears witness to the woman writer’s experience.

Have any writing advice for me? Let me know in the comments below.

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Writing Tip #3

An oldie, but a goldie, especially for a woman:

“If you want to write, you have to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen, or desk, so train yourself to be flexible.”
– Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (p. 101).

Our True Priorities Dictate Our Time

We get told this over and over: We all have the same 24 hours a day and how we use them is up to us.

As if, somehow, we’re focusing on things that aren’t important to us. And that’s what hinders our writing.

But, let’s be honest, there are always competing priorities for a woman writer’s time:

Our job – because we all have bills
Our relationships – dealing with kids, partner, parents
Our health – exercise, leisure, sleep

For women, our true priorities – our relationships, our children, our work – dictate how we spend our hours each day.

We can’t, as so many advice-givers advocate, just make time to write. We have to schedule our writing time around our priorities. We focus on things that ARE important to us.

In addition to being a wife, mother, and writer, I am a college professor. Today is graduation. I MUST be at graduation, right. It’s a school requirement, I can’t skip it and write.

Should I feel bad about that? I think not.

Like me, you have challenges in your life that are personal to you. Your job is to determine your true priorities and manage your time around those priorities so that your challenges do not create barriers.

The solution is not to in time management, it is in priority management.

Writing Tip #2

Keep writing. Your words matter. My words matter. Life gets in the way – everyday, every freakin’ day! – but we can’t stop, won’t stop writing. Don’t. Stop. Writing.

A Writerly Life: Mary Oliver

“Believe me, if anybody has a job and starts at 9, there’s no reason why they can’t get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second-best effort of the day – which is what I did.”
— Mary Oliver

Rethinking Goals

1. Writing goals should be expressed as products to be created.

Make goals that are specific and reachable by your own efforts. You want to set goals in which you are entirely in control of the outcome.

I will write for 15 minutes is not a goal. It is part of the process of working towards a goal.

I will write two paragraphs is a goal. I will write a draft of a poem is a goal. I will outline a scene for my novel is a goal.

Also, don’t make goals that depend on other people.

A goal to publish depends on editors. When you choose a goal where the outcome is dependent on the actions of somebody else, through no fault of your own, you may not reach that goal.

For example, last summer I got stung by wasps, went to analytic shock and almost died. Writing an article about it is a terrific goal. And, in fact, I’ve written two. Selling an article about it to a magazine is dependent on the action of an editor. Luckily for me, I’ve sold one and the other one has been submitted for consideration. But my goal was to write the articles.

2. After coming up with your writing goal, break it down into the steps needed to complete it.

What do you need to do to reach your goal? Once I decided to write a magazine article about getting stung, I broke it down into the steps required to reach the goal:

come up with idea for article
research possible markets
write the article
submit it

Most days reaching my writing goal was simple. When it was time to write, I worked on my wasp sting article for 15 or 20 minutes. No hesitation. I knew what the writing plan for the day was. Other days I spent time looking at possible markets or did other research and counted that for my writing time.

So here’s a reminder: set writing goals that are specific and reachable by your own efforts, and you will be entirely in control of the outcome.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.