Thursday, 4 October 2007

Women and writing

I've been thinking alot about how women find time to write. I've read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and thoroughly agree that a woman needs a room of her own - not just to write, but to have her own space, so she can dream, create, just be herself. So much of every woman I know is taken up with children, taking care of the house, working, that there is so little time left over for creative time. I'm not saying that tired argument that we are overworked, stressed, etc, which anyone who has a family, is! that's a given. It's the effort to make creative time that seems to give women the most trouble. We leave it for last. Earlier this year, I discovered that leaving my writing for the end of the day, meant I would fall asleep on the computer. I would struggle to put sentences together because I would nod off between words. After a few months of this, I realized I couldn't keep up. so now I am trying something radical: I am getting up before dawn, to write. The house is quiet, it is dark outside, it is still. I have my cup of tea, I open up my computer, open up my file that holds my novel, and start writing. And it's working!!!!!
There are distractions, of course, the kids get up earlier because I'm up, my LSS (long- suffering spouse.....I buy books, he's given up asking when am I going to stop, and wonders now where the next shelf can go!) gets ready for work and turns the radio on in the kitchen.....I stay up too late the night before - I still struggle to get to bed before 11! - any number of things can distract me, but I try for a page of writing before the rest of my day begins.
So I began in May, and while I am still cranky (perimenopause, EVERYONE seems stupid these days!), that anxiety that used to weigh on me - why am I here? What am I doing with my life? What am I going to write, and WHEN am I going to write it? Those questions and that anxiety have disappeared. I am more peaceful inside me, much more loving my life because I am writing. It si the act of writing, of creating, that I need to do, to feel my life has meaning. I don't know why, it has been this way since I was 10 and realized I could write, I could tell funny stories and at least my teacher back then liked them! I knew then it was what I wanted to do. And after 40 years of some writing accomplishments - honorary mention in a poetry competition a zillion years ago, winning a short story competition at a science fiction convention - lots of stories begun and left - it just feels good to be writing.
I have a little room upstairs that is all my own, since the youngest kids want to share the bigger room at the moment. I am still setting up the room, but it is mine. I have my altar set up, two book shelves packed with books, writing binders, tarot card sets, magazines, my trunk with all my quilting supplies (another creative activity that I long to do), a tiny table to sit at and computer yet so I can't write there, but for my quiet time and space, it's there! A room of my own.
And so when I get pressured now and think of all things done and that I still have to do every day - which I am grateful for, by the way, I know how lucky I am in my life, how blessed and how rich (even if not in actual money!) - I remember that I've done my writing that day, the novel is coming along, and I relax. I am a great deal more peaceful with a room of my own.
I also remember what I read in Charlotte Gray's Sisters in the Wilderness, about Susannah Marsh and Catherine Parr Traill. They had to bake bread from scratch every morning, prepare all the meals based on their gardens, current supplies or what they could catch, do all the chores of running a household with 5 kids and husbands away to war often - and every evening, after the kids were in bed, they would sit up and by the candlelight, write furiously for an hour or two, because they always wanted to be authors, and they needed to bring in more money. This was in the 1820's to 1840's!!! In pioneer Canada, when all they had was the one room cottage for all the family members! Whenever I think I have it hard, I think of them and am very grateful I don't have to start baking bread first thing every day! And that they could stay up every night and write (well, every night they could)! I am awed. They are some of my writing heroines. They didn't have a room of their own, but they had determination, and they did it.
So what makes a woman want to write or paint or act when her life is already so full? I think it's because it's from within us. It's our own creativity, and no one else's. That's what makes it so hard for so many women to do, that it's not for anyone else, and often not with overt permission. It's like a treasure that we each have, but we have to dig for it - or as Stephen King says in The Art of Writing - dig for the bones. When we strip away our life, what is it for and what does it mean, if we have not lived a life that we have really been in? And we can only be in our lives really if we are creating, actively pursuing our passions while we raise the kids, work, clean the house, and do all the myriad things that compose our outer lives with others. We need an inner life, where our soul lives, where we find ourselves. And mine is in writing, and reading, and books. As well as gardening, nature, my goddess spirituality, my family, quilting, cooking.
So what do you think, do women need a room of their own to write? Do we need to create? Why? Just curious to know what others think and their experiences of creating.
Time to go finish The Well of Lost Plots so I can begin my horror reading month!
Luckily, when I finish this novel, I have at least 4 others lined up.

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