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.

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!

Labels are Self-Prophetic

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 Tip #5

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When you’re not writing, read. The more you read, the better your sense for how to craft your own work — articles, stories, poems, novels — will be.

Writers from William Faulkner to Stephen King to JK Rowling have advocated reading. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master, we learn our craft by studying published work. Read the best of your chosen genre that you can find, read stuff you like, and don’t be afraid to read them many times. Reading instructs and inspires your own writing.

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 . . .