Pink and Blue Diaries: The Insanely Busy Woman’s Guide to Sustaining a Writerly Life

Deborah Siegel mashes up YOUR wisdom.

One thing I've long loved about She Writes is the intergenerational breadth of its membership. My post last Friday on Book/Life fit elicited confident wisdom from women writers who have been there, done that; tentative nuggets, based on trial and error, from many of us on the road to figuring it out; and one wisely skeptical nugget from fellow She Writer and cultural commentator Katha Pollitt, who wrote: 

 

“[M]ale writers don't write these articles about how busy they are. They don't feel guilty if they do their work. They simply claim the time and the family has to deal with it.” 

 

To which I responded that my husband, who morphed temporarily into stay-at-home dad after he lost his job during the recession, felt guilt when I'd glance over his shoulder and find him blogging instead of looking for work.  But Katha's right, he didn't write about it.  I did. 

 

Wrote Sue in another take on the gendered angle, "If we are the ‘weaker sex’ how come we are repeatedly called upon to be more inventive, more resilient and enduring?”  True that.  And yet here we all are, inventing, enduring, and still somehow managing to find time to write in the crevices of insanely busy lives.

 

How do we do it?  Here are 10 pearls of wisdom culled from YOU, She Writers, from the comments on my last post.  This goodness was just too damn wise to keep to myself.  If others just joining our conversation have wisdom—or struggle—to add to this ever-morphing guide, please do so here or in comments on last week's post.  Here we go:

 

1. PRIORITIZE JOY.

I can no longer have my book on the back burner....it's now front and center with an end date.  So, some things need to go, some things need to stay, but in the end it's what gives me joy that has to come first.  -Amy Wise

2. DEMOTE GUILT.

Kate Wilhelm: "I realized the world, everyone in it practically, will give more and more responsibility to any woman who will continue to accept it. And when the other responsibilities are too great, her responsibility to herself must go. Or she has to take a thoroughly selfish position and refuse the world, and then accept whatever guilt there is. . ." via Deborah Batterman

[I]f we don't learn to say no, our goals will be about as good as the scrap of paper they are written on. And for goodness sake, how does this make us a credible source for empowering a child? -RYCJ

3. GET UP EARLY. AND KILL YOUR TV.

I have always gotten up two hours earlier than anyone else in my home and go to bed at least one to two hours later.  I have four more hours in every day, twenty-eight more hours in my week and one hundred twelve more hours in a month.  It is a practice I started when very young, have always continued and never divert from unless I am sick.  I never watch television, and always use the time others use for that, to read a good book. -Kathy Kise Nicholson

4. MAKE SMALL POCKETS OF TIME MATTER.

I read on the bus to and from work as I have almost an hour commute each way. Sue

[I] write on my lunch break.  [I] think of story ideas on the way home and in the shower. -Jessie Burche

5.  IF YOU DON’T MAKE YOUR LIVING WRITING WHAT YOU WANT (AND BELIEVE ME, MANY OF US DON’T), AND YOU HAVE THE OPTION NOT TO WORK (WHICH, ALSO, MANY OF US DON'T), WORK NONETHELESS.

Work. Sounds counterintuitive, but now I have the money to pay for writing workshops, classes, website ideas. -Jessie Burche

6. BUY FOOD THAT COOKS ITSELF. LEARN TO TOLERATE DISARRAY.

I am trying to teach my house how to clean itself, but I think it's developmentally delayed. -Jane Baskin

Stop worrying about being a lady (being from Texas it's first nature to put on makeup). Learn to swear. Follow the teakettle theory--don't let life build up.  -Kay Merkel Boruff

7. KNOW THAT THE GRASS IS NOT ALWAYS GREENER.

We're not in writer's block as long as the words pour out of us. There are writers who aren't saddled with a load of life, etc., and they still don't write every day, still don't get a book written, and still don't feel good enough. -Joyce Evans-Campbell

8. TRUST THE PROCESS.  LIVE YOUR STORY.  IT FEEDS YOUR WORK.

Trust the process.  Look around and see all of the wonderful things going right in your amazing life story.  For indeed, this is the most important story that you will ever write—it is your legacy.  Be Inspired.  -Sharyn Jordan Hathcock

9. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO LET GO OF THE QUEST FOR BALANCE DURING A CERTAIN CHAPTER OF LIFE.

I don't believe there is such thing as "balance" in the short term; there are the all-consuming day-to-day diaper changes, feeding, consoling, doctor visits, role-modeling, and being there 24/7. The balance comes later when the kids are old enough to be more self-sufficient. It was a wild ride for me; only now that my kids are in their tweens and teens can I begin to think about my self-actualization. -Fleur de Lys

10. ACCEPT THAT WRITING/LIFE FIT IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION.

Every day is a new adventure in adjusting my writing/life fit. - Pamela Toler

I muddle through and muck it up, we all muddle through and muck it up at times. -Mary Keating

And now, back to Katha’s point, because of course it has me thinking.  Why is it that we don’t see male writers writing these kinds of posts?  And what's wrong with this picture? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Image cred: willraleigh

Views: 179

Tags: #process/craft, time management

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Comment by Caroline Bock on February 25, 2011 at 2:08pm
Only when I made it my 'job' did it writing start working for me -- especially having 5 and 11 year old -- they had to know 'mommy' was working when she was at her computer.  Of course, sometimes I am just procrastinating too -- checking out blogs and websites:) but I'm sure that happens at other people's workplaces too!!
Comment by Barbara Fischkin on February 25, 2011 at 1:59pm

 This is so supportive. After being a published writer with wildy varying degrees of success for decades, I still need these reminders. Yes, we live in interesting times and we are part of interesting civilizations and it is a privilege to write the words to chroncle any of this.

And now I will be snotty. The men don't write these posts because they are too busy fulfulling the plethora of assignments they get and we don't. I am guessing shewrites has already noted this but it's worth repeating. Check out the charts that show the gender gap at magazines and literary journals here http://vidaweb.org/the-count-2010  It's quite startling.

 

 

Comment by Katherine Huether on February 25, 2011 at 1:46pm
Once I gave up television I became so much more productive! And to keep myself in check and not worry about housework, I set the timer for an hour each day and clean and do stuff... then after the hour is over I stop and tell myself that even though I am not finished, I'll clean again tomorrow and can get to it then.
Comment by Nancy Williard on February 25, 2011 at 1:36pm
I like #3 but I don't get up early.  I just stay up late and don't watch TV.  I read or write.  I can sit next to my husband and type on my laptop.
Comment by Pat Sabiston on February 25, 2011 at 1:32pm
#3  Am spending too much time on FB (but TV isn't an issue).  #5  I've done both and my working life actually provides me with MORE material for my creative work than when I sat on the back porch with all the time in the world to write.  #7  As I heard in a writer's workshop:  "There is no such thing as writer's block.  Have you ever heard of plumber's block?  Sit down and work your craft just as with any other trade."
Comment by Amy Yelin on February 25, 2011 at 1:28pm

Did you ever read this in Poets and Writers? Rare, I know....

http://www.pw.org/content/writer_parent_no_more_aching_be_artist

Comment by Erin Hosier on February 25, 2011 at 1:27pm
Women are more responsible for the daily work of raising children. Even the women I know in "50/50" type partnerships who work, end up paying for childcare, while men handle the mortgage or whatever. It's just womens' work, still, in most families. And recently I was at a reading in Manhattan, and it featured four writers - two men, two women. Guess what both women had written about? Motherhood, and trying to write about a world that was consumed with drool and sippy cups. The men wrote complex narratives about travel and revolution. I couldn't tell if the men were fathers or not, but we knew the women were mothers.
Comment by Ruth Zaryski Jackson on February 25, 2011 at 1:26pm

Great suggestions! If only I had a wife or a personal assistant like my husband does, then I could implement them all easily.

Ruth

Comment by Patricia A. McGoldrick on February 25, 2011 at 12:08pm

So many different perspectives!

My children are grown up now, but I recall how important it is to fit in some moments of "me" time.

These comments provide lots of ideas!

Great sharing this collage of comments, Deborah!

Patricia

Comment by Pilar Wyman on February 25, 2011 at 6:09am
Thank you, this is great! Get up early and kill your tv might be my favorite here. Somehow, I find myself looking for permission to do just that ... but what do we need permission for, anyway, to do what we need to do? Hmpf!

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