Why Can’t I Find Time to Write? Part 2

This is the second in a several-part post.

I will begin by simply stating that a man seems to be able to give full energy to his writer-self, in a way a woman cannot.

Like most women, I am denied a full writing life. My life is one of responsibilities. I am a writer, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a professor and, on any given day, the simplest circumstances for creation do not exist. Yet the hope of writing is always there. Most days it seems to be stolen moments, snatches of time. Early morning hours before the world wakes up, after the household chores are done (some days they are ignored), an hour wedged between class and a committee meeting, evening hours for as long as I can stay awake.

The power and need to create is in both women and men. Tillie Olsen says, “Where the gifted among women (and men) have remained mute, or have never attained full capacity, it is because of circumstances, inner and outer, which oppose the needs of creation” (p. 17).

Most women would prefer to live a clean and tidy writing life-other life. But a writer-woman is torn between these two. I think the conflict is between being overly adaptive and being oneself. Whether we want to believe it or not, women are still trained to place other’s needs first, to feel these needs are their own, and sometimes we simple must take care of other responsibilities before we can write. We’ve cobbled together an identity based on narratives. We tell our self stories constantly and the ones we repeat most often become part of our identity. We are the stories we tell ourselves.

People cannot change their habits without first assessing their assumptions about writing. Women try out various approaches to finding the time to write only to find that things soon return to “normal.” I am absolutely convinced, however, that any woman can keep her mental space in order, and create some measure of time for herself beyond the inescapable work/family pulls and responsibilities.

What are the stories you tell yourself about finding, making, snitching time to write? Can you become an architect of change of your own writing life?

More soon . . .

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.

Why Can’t I Find Time to Write? Part 1

When I first tell people that my research is about women who had difficulty finding time to write, I am usually met with reactions that range from making me feel that I don’t measure up (the unspoken “What’s the matter with you?” side-eye one of my professors gave me when I broached this as a dissertation topic) to condescending (“I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great”).

The general assumption is that it’s a time management problem. And that if I wanted it badly enough, I’d find the time to do it. Unlike food, shelter and clothing, writing is not a basic human need, although to a frustrated woman writer it may feel like it is. So, in most societies, a woman’s desire to write is superseded by her life circumstances.

The standard advice touted by writing magazines, and the internet is, “Make writing a priority.” And the two most common recommendations seem to be: You have to make time to write and you have to give up something to write. One oft-touted quote is: “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.)

The implication is that if you take your writing seriously, you’ll give it the time and consideration it deserves. I had read so many articles on finding time to write that I assumed it was true.

But there was one problem that seemed unsolvable. No matter how much I created calendars, not matter how often I said I was going to write early in the morning or late at night, it wasn’t long before I wasn’t writing again.
Some days I write nothing, because I have no time, and I feel that pressure. I have had a special need to learn all I could to help myself and other women like me who have had let writing be stopped, interrupted, put aside, or left to die over and over again, and are tormented by the unwritten.

The idea that women can “just make writing a priority” is simply airbrushing reality. It is time to talk.

More tomorrow . . .

Why do You Write?

Today’s post is presented in a form called Lyric Essay that I was introduced to a creative writing teacher.

A Friday Q & A

Q: I return again and again to what I consider the most basic of personal questions, yet at the same time perhaps the toughest to answer. The question is, Why do you write? You could have done anything else—paint, do brain surgery, grow gardens, whatever—but you chose to write. Why?

A. That question haunts me. But, it also reminds me that all writers write from the same place—a wound. Kathryn Harrison says, “I write because it’s the only thing I know that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of live” (p. 71). Life goes on, but our shattering wounds are there. Everywhere we go. Everywhere we went.

Q. How does the process of writing help you?

A. I write to find my voice. I write to make sense of the world. I write to figure out the crazy things people do. I write as a way to process my disasters, sort out the messiness of life. Creatives, and I’m using that as a noun, see their world slightly skewed. We’ve been exposed to things that have pained our souls.

Q. Why do you write?

Writing Tip #5

“Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”
– William Zinsser, On Writing Well

A Writerly Life: Robin McKinley

“One of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, obstacle to becoming a writer… is learning to live with the fact that the wonderful story in your head is infinitely better, truer, more moving, more fascinating, more perceptive, than anything you’re going to manage to get down on paper. (And if you ever think otherwise, then you’ve turned into an arrogant self-satisfied prat, and should look for another job or another avocation or another weekend activity.) So you have to learn to live with the fact that you’re never going to write well enough. Of course that’s what keeps you trying — trying as hard as you can — which is a good thing.”

—Robin McKinley (author of fantasy and children’s books; winner of the Newbery Medal)