There is a myth that one needs to make huge caverns of quiet time to write. The reality is that most writers begin in the margins of their unquiet life, and move to full-time writing as occupation only after many years. Writing in the margins becomes especially complicated for women with work, relationship, and children. The myth of needing time to write full-time may be confused with the need for some combination of solitude, silence, and stillness in order to write.
Here is an excerpt from my book Women Voice and Writing, to help you think about this…
Jacquelyn Mitchard writes about the Ragdale Foundation’s writer-artist colony, a place “for people who don’t have the time or money in their lives to finish creative pro- jects—which is, I guess, most people.”* She notes that more really success- ful novelists are men, while most Ragdale residents are women:
It would be easy to say that imbalance exists because women tend to have less time (and the inclination to give less time) to their creative work. It’s easy to say that because it’s true. … my four times as a Ragdale fellow—a total of two months—have constituted the only real period of solitude and self-indulgence in my adult life.
These periods have been the only time I’ve had food prepared for me, other than when I was recovering from surgery or caring for a newborn…. It’s been the only time I’ve had custody of my own pur pose…. The gift is time. It’s like the feeling of having mobility restored to an injured limb. First strange, almost painful, then hourly, more powerful and restorative.
By Jacquelyn Mitchard, from her column, The Rest of Us, “For women writers, quiet time is golden,” The Sun, Chicago (Sunday, April 10, 1997).
“Custody of my own purpose.” As a single mother for 19 years, I felt I had shared custody of my own purpose. Phyllis Hoge Thompson picks up these themes and elaborates:
Phyllis: When I was having babies I just didn’t have time to write. So as soon as I stopped having babies and finished my Ph.D., I started. I think time has been a critical matter . . . although I’ve done some writing in the past three years, whenever I’ve been to Yaddo or some other artist’s colony, I’ve been able to pour myself into the work.
Now I think I can do it at home, because I can see some time ahead of me…. I think that something that comes up is the question of children, doesn’t it? For all but male writers—maybe them also? I’m very grateful that I had children, and grateful that I have grandchildren.
I think that having children turns women outside of themselves … this is a crazy generalization—that mothers have to become less self-centered as they grow older, and I think that when you become less self- centered you can deal with problems that occur to people other than yourself. You can deal with them honestly.
... it follows from the fact that initially your self is taken away from you. You have an experience in which you can’t devote yourself to yourself. So that you’re open to more. Which forces you to look away from yourself toward others. When you come back, to having time, to explore who it is you are . . .
Jill: You’ve popped your kernel. You can never go back into that little shell.
Phyllis: Right. You’re much more open, I think. And you can write with interest and attention to things outside of yourself, it seems to me.