How To Stop Women From Writing

I spent the weekend in West Virginia with my boyfriend’s family for Thanksgiving. It was really lovely to sit down to eat food I didn’t make, and be able to sit down and relax in a house I didn’t feel responsible for cleaning.

And then I came home.

I have two indoor cats and two dogs. My mom was nice enough to let the dogs in and out while I was gone, but everybody was anxious at my absence and it was easily seen. At some point someone had clearly dug into the garbage can. There were little cat paw prints on the counter that could only be seen in a certain light, but I knew they were there. Judging by the defiant looks, I’m guessing the kitties knew I knew and didn’t care. The laundry I was supposed to do last week was waiting on me, the dishes in the sink were still dirty, and I really needed to put fresh bedding on my bed.

But the drive home had given me a few hours of warm, fast-moving-cocoon, quiet time. And the little seed in my brain that wants to become the WIP germinated in those few hours, sprouting supporting characters and ripping off a series of things I need to research if I really want to do this project justice.

Seeing all that housework waiting on me the second I walked in the door was like a killing frost on that seedling, as effective as the 15 degrees outside. There were things staring at me in the real world that needed my attention. People notice when you let these things go.

But the only person that knows when you let things go in your imagination is you.

So I decided to be dutiful, and I started in on the dishes when I suddenly remembered a quote from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.

In MindyLand this translates as, “F#(*! the dishes. I’m writing.”

6 thoughts on “How To Stop Women From Writing

  1. I have a big problem with this. Not just in writing, but with leisure time — I feel like I can't go on a break until everything I need to do is done, or at least at a stopping point. Got to get out of that habit!

  2. Yet another perfect example of why I am in awe of writers who work up the muster to keep writing every day, and especially writers who have other full time jobs. I'm getting a slight taste of it with my first NaNoWriMo attempt, but wow. To come home after a long day at work and still sit down and get writing is pretty amazing. And to somehow fit in housework in between, even more so. But I agree, writing > dishes. 🙂

  3. I think the idea that art is not meant to be created in stolen moments is a very powerful one. Not only women – but everyone – needs to keep this in mind if we want to let our creativity out. It's not just a hobby or a pastime – it's self expression.

  4. I cheered and gave you a huge high-five when I saw this. There's so much I could say on this topic. My husband and I are both writers and I'm the one with the full-time job. We also have two young kids. I do 80% of the housework even though he's the stay-at-home dad and put the kids to bed every night. I have to fight really hard to demand chunks of time for writing. Housework is so far down on my list that I really just try to keep mold from growing. If there's no mold or any kind of colony multiplying, things are clean enough. But I do go on cleaning binges sometimes just for catharsis. I want a plaque with that Dorothy Parker saying: “I don't cook. I don't clean. I'm a writer.”

  5. Yep, Heather. It's hard to shrug off the conventional thinking that tells us if our house isn't clean then we have failed as women.

    I highly recommend the book I quoted above. Give it a read for a boost!

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