Writing Tip #8

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Clock in the hours. Life – work, love, children – can get in the way of our writing plans. Do not regret the shape your life as a writer-woman has taken, don’t fret not having a regimented writing schedule, but do find a way to clock in the hours. Successful women writers may change their writing schedule when life gets in the way, but they keep at it. They clock in the hours.

A Writerly Life: bell hooks

“Like many writers, I am protective of the time I spend writing. Even though women write more today than ever before, most women writers still grapple with the issue of time. Often writing is the task saved for the end of the day. Not just because it is hard to value writing time, to place it above other demands, but because writing is hard . . . Now I accept that facing the difficult is part of the heroic journey of writing, a preparation, a ritual of sanctification—that it is through this arduous process of grappling with words that writing becomes my true home, a place of solace and comfort.” (p.22)
― bell hooks, remembered rapture: the writer at work

Writing Tip #7

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.

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!

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 . . .