A woman does not have to write. She must imagine that she must. Each day is a struggle, and the outcome is always uncertain. Writing is work, it’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Today don’t just choose to write, choose to imagine that you must write.
This is the third in a several-part post.
The stories we tell ourselves matter.
Do you think about the stories you tell yourself?
Thomas King, in his book The Truth About Stories, says, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” Furthermore, he says, “We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” (p. 153).
What are the stories you tell yourself?
I know from my PhD work that circumstances – slow to change cultural traditions, critical attitudes, limited spheres of publishing opportunity, even subject matter constraints – make writing success more difficult for women than it is for men, because each of these circumstances has a story attached to it.
We need to explore the stories we live by.
Instead of asking, Why Can’t I Write? The two questions we need to be asking ourselves are:
What stories am I telling myself that prevent me from writing?
What stories are other people telling me that prevent me from writing?
“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!
I’ve been thinking about this sentence by Elif Shafak, perhaps the most famous Turkish woman writer: “Male writers are thought of as ‘writers’ first and then ‘men’. As for female writers, they are first ‘female’ and only then ‘writers’.”
When you think of your writer self, what do you call yourself? Are you a woman-writer? Are you a writer-woman?
I’ve come to believe there’s a significant difference in how we act out that nomenclature. You see, it’s part of the story we tell ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to start calling ourselves writer-women rather than women-writers.
The truth is what we call ourselves is the label we live by.
If we change the label we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.
Starting today, I’m going to think of myself as a writer-woman. Starting today, let’s, all of us, start thinking and referring to ourselves as a writer-woman.
“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
When it’s July 4, and you woke up late, but you have a really, really good writing day. A mid-afternoon reward.
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.