Gender Roles and Writing

An issue that pertains to some extent to a few of the current discussions within genre, posted on Booklifenow.

And, just so it’s not lost in the shuffle–Bruce Holland Rogers first put forth the six points in my post at Booklifenow. I, with his permission, paraphrased them (as noted); Everything on gender after the first couple of sentences are my observations or quotes from others. Also, Rachel Swirsky has posted a blog entry related to the discussion here.

Excerpt:

As one female writer who wished to remain anonymous put it in an email to me: “[The significance of sacrifice is] wrapped up for me in the stress/struggle I have as a female writer, on the losing end of gender expectations. There a number of things I always felt like I should do: cook healthy meals, exercise, keep the house clean for me and my significant other, remember my friends’ and family’s birthdays, be there for my five younger siblings whenever they need me, etc. Yet I’m constantly aware of the fact that all the time I spend on those good things is time that I’m not writing. I constantly feel guilty — either guilty because I’m not writing, or guilty because I’m not keeping up with the tasks mentioned above. I think women are probably more prone to that feeling of guilt and personal failing than men, though perhaps that’s just a stereotype.”

Comments

  1. says

    It’s really interesting, you posting this right now! For the first time, this year, I’ve been focused entirely on writing and it’s been the first year I’ve been (1) really crappy about Christmas cards and gifts, (2) more distant from my partner and my friends, (3) not regularly involved in “homemaking” activities like baking a lot, having people over for dinner, making kombucha (though I did just make kimchi and that was awesome), as well as a host of other deviations from my norm.

    I felt incredibly guilty this year around the holidays because my traditional activities– baking Christmas cookies, knitting, watching the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings with my husband, watching Christmas movies with my friends, listening to Patrick Stewart read A Christmas Carol, blah blah– they just didn’t happen. I’ve just been on a tear with all the stuff I do for my booklife (including reading Booklife) and that’s what I’ve wanted to do. I wondered though, as I frantically baked a lone batch of my eggnog cookies on Christmas Eve Day, if I would feel so guilty about not having enough time if I hadn’t had years of gendered expectations on me from my family, my culture, whatever. It’s not my husband or my friends that make me feel pressured regarding this stuff– they don’t care, though they do love cookies– it’s me.

    Then again I watch my best bud, a male author who’s even busier than me, and he seems to feel guilty too, so who’s to say if his guilt is gendered or if his guilt is just a result of the fact that he’s a nice dude who feels bad when he can’t be all things to all people, like everyone else? Hard to say for either of us. I do know I get more pressure from my family than he does to come home often, be a good daughter, talk to everyone every week, etc., but again– who can say? My college self would call gender shenanigans. My now self thinks it’s probably gender shenanigans mixed with parenting style and a whole bunch of other things. My now self is also slightly fuzzy-headed from partying on a Friday night, so we’ll see how I feel about this epic, rambling comment an hour from now, when I’ve had coffee.

  2. says

    Good points.

    I think guilt is universal, but often certain tasks fall to women, or the expectation of them, more than men. I know this too from individual consults with writers.

  3. Mark says

    I’m a stay-at-home dad and my wife is the wage-earner. I carve out time to write when I’m not attending to the kids or the house. My guilt over writing comes from not doing “real work” that earns a paycheck. Not getting published makes it hard to point to tangible success. I’ve gotten over it because it wasn’t bothering my wife at all, just me. The guilt was there for years, though.

  4. says

    I suppose the traditional gender role for men is providing the food, the shelter, keeping the family safe and that sort of thing. A great deal of technological development has gone into making those things unnecessary. All the things I, as a man, feel I aught to do are pretty much out of my hands. Heck, I can’t even fix the car because I need specialist tools for that.

    In a way, not being able to do those things makes me sad. It makes me feel disconnected with the world around me. I’m starting on a path where I can do all those things again, especially fixing the car!

    Over Christmas, I drove over a thousand miles to see family and made my own Christmas dinner while at my parents (I’m vegetarian and they’re still waiting for me to grow out of it). I’d rather have stayed home, but I don’t think my family would have let me…

    I think the important point is that we stay connected with the bread-and-butter tasks that keep us alive and well–the chopping firewood and collecting water, as a friend of mine puts it. It doesn’t matter which sex does which task.

  5. david Mynning says

    Guilt is universal as Jeff V says, and gender expectations fall on men too. Make dough $$, shovel snow, cut the grass, etc., etc. And then we are expected to cry less which gives us anxiety more.

    Writers are most often a bit selfish and guilty by definition–because you aren’t going to get much writing done if you’re not. HOWEVER, you don’t have to ignore others to do it. If you can truly make a schedule and stick to it–you CAN do it all. I have trouble sticking to schedules–but my dad doesn’t–he does everything ( church, clubs, boy scouts, dancing, taking care of yard, making furniture ) and he’s 80 years old AND never seems to be in a hurry.

    So outside of taking of an immediate child problem, a woman should be able to make her block of time to write ( whatever time of day works for her ) and still get her other things done she feels she should be doing.

    The thing I feel most guilty about is slacking in spending more time with the people who are important to me. I feel like it’s up to me to make get together’s happen or they won’t get done. People are spread out all over the world and it’s difficult. However, others could make the effort too. So feeling guilty does one no good. You just do what you can, and when you fall short ( like someone dies before you spend time with them ) you’ll know you were thinking of them and you tried, and you’ll realize you can’t do everything and you must learn to let things go. I have had difficulty in letting things go, but I’m learning to do so–because worrying robs you of time, causes great anxiety, and puts you in the grave, the hospital, or the funny farm.

    Of course I’ve always thought that hanging out at a funny farm for a while would be a great source for writing material, but that’s another story.

  6. Rachel Swirsky says

    i would rather see it stated directly: women in this country bear the lion’s share of the housework — even in families that purport to have an equitable division of labor, when time is accounted for, the woman almost always does more. in households where the woman also works or cares for children — most households — this creates a situation in which women have both a first job and the famous second shift, leaving them little time for creative pursuits like writing.

    yeah, yeah, yeah, there are exceptions; i live in one too; but numerous studies point strongly to this being an extremely strong social trend, so it bears keeping in mind when discussing things like “why women don’t write more” and “barriers that affect women writers specifically.”

  7. says

    In some ways, I’m not qualified to talk about the traditional gender roles being discussed specifically here, because I’m not in a relationship and I don’t have kids. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take a stab at it anyway. ;)

    Traditionally the male role around the house was to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, chop the firewood as someone mentioned, etc. A lot of those were set up as weekend tasks. Things that didn’t need to be done on a daily basis, or even on a weekly basis. Things the ‘man of the house’ could do while still holding down a M-F 9-5 job. Perhaps he took out the trash daily, though that often gets foisted on the kids when they’re old enough not to spill it.

    Whereas the traditional female jobs are cooking 1-3 times a day, cleaning the kitchen/doing the dishes, minding the kids. Laundry and shopping needs to be done less frequently, depending on your habits and size of the family/age of the kids. But you see how more of these tasks are ones that need to be done, not just daily, but sort of.. nearly constantly. You always have to at least be thinking ‘what’s for dinner?’

    So it’s easier to say ‘I’m just going to write for 5 hours’ when you know the lawn is not growing that much in 5 hours, or your house is going to stay warm for 5 hours, or the trash won’t overflow in 5 hours. It’s different when you’re wondering what the kids are up to, listening for the ding to let you know the roast is done, or worrying about the wet laundry you left sitting in the washer.

    If you decide you need a month-long ‘vacation’ from life to concentrate on finishing your novel, is it the man or the woman of the house who’s going to catch the most flak for doing that?

    And then, as the quote from the book says, there are the social obligations. Did you talk to your mother today? Did you talk to _his_ mother today? Whose birthday are you both forgetting, because it’s your job to remember, not his. If you don’t send out a Christmas card this year, whose fault is it?

    So there’s my entirely unqualified rambling on the specific subject. How much of it applies to me? Not much. No tasks, gendered or otherwise, are keeping me from sitting down and writing for 5 hours. I’m the one stopping me from doing that.

  8. says

    I don’t feel guilty about taking time to write, but I can tell that there are those around me who don’t understand, those who would prioritize doing the dishes before writing down a scene that has been dancing around my head. But still, that can be challenge. Visiting friends and family, sometimes I marvel at how orderly everything is, how pristine and put-together. But I would never sacrifice writing time for a perfectly vacuumed floor or alphabetized pantry; it’s not a priority. Not everyone understands that; in fact, I’d say most don’t.

    In a roundabout way, I’m saying that much of this pressure is societal. And I’ve seen many women experience this intensely: from family, from the media, from themselves. Not that men don’t, but it is different.

    But I’m also proud of my “womanly” pursuits. I love knitting and crochet, and I adore cooking and helping to keep my family happy, healthy, and together. If I don’t take time to do these things, my writing suffers for it. It’s not necessarily because I’m a woman that I do these things, but I value them all the same; I love feeling connected to the women that came before me, and learning to work with my hands to produce things: a loaf of bread, a knitted scarf, a piece of music. Storytelling is very much tied into all of that.

    That said, we all have to cut our losses. None of us are superhuman. We can do a great deal as individuals, but overextending is only going to end up chaos and disappointment. That’s why it’s essential to cut the wheat from the chaff: sometimes it’s okay to fail at stuff, it’s okay to admit you can’t do everything. That way, you can put that energy–otherwise wasted with guilt and worry–into something positive, something definitive.

  9. says

    I guess I grew up in a less traditional household. Im aware of the social trends, but in my family it was actually my father who did most of the housework, and my mother cooked infrequently, if at all. As soon as we were old enough, the children in my family started taking on a lot of the trash/recycling, laudary and dishes duty(no dishwasher in _our_ house). I suppose my mother worried most about keeping the house neat and such, but everyone was expected to do the work, and especially take care of personal (as opposed to communal) messes.

    I know from reading a lot of author blogs that many female writers have to deal with a lot of family/household issues, but I wasn’t aware the trend was still so strong.

    Great discussion, Jeff. And others, of course.

  10. says

    After reading these responses, I guess the question I’m interested in is whether the women who feel these pressures are doing anything to dispel the guilt. I mean, this guilt clearly isn’t fair. Is there anything that can be done to relieve this sense of obligation and the guilt which comes with it?

  11. says

    @Dylan I think in some of us the guilt eventually fuels our drive, a feeling of needing to succeed, hell or high water. Because it’s by the fruits of our labors that we’re judged, in the long run. Or so it seems.

  12. says

    Rachel–yes, it needs to be stated directly. I also think for the second edition of Booklife I’ll probably quote from this discussion, if nobody minds. (I should also include more on “nontraditional” partnerships.)

    That’s a great point, Natania, about if you let the lawn go it’s not the same thing.

    I wish these roles were not so engrained in the majority of households, but they are, and they totally impact productivity. Perhaps *more* importantly, they affect *continuity*. It is more difficult to make progress in starts and stops.

    I can’t go into detail, but in writer consults in the past I have encountered multiple situations in which women writers have been incredibly handicapped by their relationships, to the point of anguish and despair. I have never encountered a male writer in a consult who was ever hindered by anything remotely similar. It is one area in which I feel there is no ambiguity.

    Jeff

  13. Rachel Swirsky says

    “(I should also include more on “nontraditional” partnerships.)”

    Probably, but if those partnerships are still male/female, then again I want to emphasize that research has shown that people in heterosexual partnerships are notoriously bad at estimating the percentages of time that they and their partners spend on housework. If asked to estimate how much time they spend on housework, they may say “equal”; if actually asked to document the time, inequalities demonstrating that the woman puts in more work are frequently revealed.

    I don’t want to evade exceptions. My husband does more housework than I do, and a lot of that is because I write. I know for sure that he does more housework than I do for some personal reasons that I don’t want to go into, for which I apologize. Exceptions definitely, definitely do exist.

    At the same time, I think it’s important to establish that even people who think or say that they are exceptions may not actually be exceptions, because there can be a pressure on women, especially feminist-identified women, to say that labor is equally distributed in their relationship even when it isn’t. Some women (especially feminist-identified women) report feeling intense guilt about not being able to create an equal division of labor. So, it can be kind of important to repeat that this is normal. Even if all their friends say they have equitable divisions of labor at home (and there can be a lot of pressure in some circles for everyone to say this), then probably it’s not actually true of all their friends. Not that anyone is lying deliberately, but people have trouble estimating this sort of thing accurately.

    So, it’s easy to imagine (perhaps because some women talk about this happening to them) women who are in social circles of couples where everyone else says they have equitable division of labor, but who know that their own partnership doesn’t have an equitable division of labor, and who conclude that this makes them unusual or a failure at feminism or a bad wife or whatever sort of guilt affects them. It’s important to establish that they’re actually normal; the unequal distribution of labor doesn’t mean that they are failing at feminism or as wives. It doesn’t make anyone — male or female — a bad person. Inequitable distribution of household labor is just one of those things that comes with American heterosexual life; it’s not a personal failing. Not that couples shouldn’t try to change it if they want it changed (and there are lots of good reasons to want it changed), but it shouldn’t be a source of guilt or feelings of failure.

    I’m having trouble phrasing this perfectly. I just get nervous about these conversations. They’re important, but I don’t want to see them indirectly contribute to hurting anyone, and it’s so, so easy for nuance to get lost.

  14. Ann VanderMeer says

    There are definitely more societal expectations on women for household responsibilities, regardless of how far we may have come. I work a very demanding job outside the home, in addition to my volunteer work and editing/publishing projects. My husband works at home all day. And yet if our home isn’t kept clean and beautiful, if the yard is a mess, people tend to look askance at me, not even considering this is also Jeff’s responsibility.

    If a woman supports her husband’s writing career, it’s expected, because traditionally a woman is SUPPOSED to support her man. However, when a man supports his wife’s writing, some look at it as a HUGH sacrifice and a favor and oh, what a great guy he is…blah blah blah. I am waiting for the day when both men and women who support their creative spouses get the credit due them.

  15. says

    Jeff, are the inequalities you’ve encountered international, or specific to some countries? Can you divulge that much information? I ask because Rachel specifically mentions the situation in America. I’ve got absolutely no reason to doubt her, I just wonder if this is problem that is particularly bad in the US or if it’s endemic in a lot of countries.

  16. Hellbound Heart says

    i am not a writer, so i guess i’m not qualified to comment in regards to this aspect of the topic but being a full-time teacher/mother/wife i know the pressures and dilemmas facing a working spouse/parent. Yes, somebody mentioned the job number one/job number two syndrome earlier and i believe that is so true…..as soon as i’ve come home from work i hit the ground running with the myriad of jobs that need to be done, preparing the evening meal and helping with homework…….yes, i feel it is a gender-based expectation, a societal expectation and something that’s passed down to so many men from their families (my spouse’s mother was a super mum which doesn’t help at all, or maybe this is my spouse’s perception of her)……..no it’s NOT fair because i KNOW i do the lion’s share of the housework and i get really p****d off about it…..

    i guess this doesn’t have too much relevence to what you’re talking about but i thought i’d put my twenty cents worth in anyway……

    peace and love……

  17. says

    I want to point out that it’s not just the time spent doing the tasks, but the mental and emotional energy spent thinking about them. Who’s the one making the to-do lists? Who’s the one compiling the shopping list? Who’s the one leaving reminders to call the cable company?

    I think the guilt can really come into play because you’re not just not doing the things you think you should be doing, but you’re spending time thinking of everything that needs doing that’s not getting done.

    Actually doing the laundry, if you’re thinking about your novel at the same time, is productive on two counts. Thinking that you have to buy laundry detergent because you’re almost out while you’re trying to write is unproductive on all counts.

  18. says

    Dylan: I’m not going to go into details. I’m also not trying to say that I think this is the way it is for all women, there also being degrees of obstruction to writing that range from mild to major. But that there are clearly systemic issues.

  19. says

    I guess my level of discomfort is different than for Rachel, in that it was important to discuss the issue in the book, the discussion here is useful, but that at a certain point I begin to feel uncomfortable typifying an experience someone else is going through.

  20. Rachel Swirsky says

    “I just wonder if this is problem that is particularly bad in the US or if it’s endemic in a lot of countries.”

    I just know about data in the US. I try not to make broad claims about other countries since systems of sexism work differently in different locations. You can probably generalize to other countries that are very similar culturally to the US, like the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.

  21. says

    Julie–that’s a great point. Thinking about the novel is as important as the actual writing–keeping it alive in your head, working various things out. Not having that energy, or having your attention diverted by all of what you’re talking about, totally gets in the way.

    Hellbound–that’s totally relevant.

    Jeff

  22. says

    Ann said: “If a woman supports her husband’s writing career, it’s expected, because traditionally a woman is SUPPOSED to support her man. However, when a man supports his wife’s writing, some look at it as a HUGE sacrifice and a favor and oh, what a great guy he is…blah blah blah. I am waiting for the day when both men and women who support their creative spouses get the credit due them.”

    This is wisdom.

  23. says

    Hail,
    My wife is disabled, I do most of the housework, She (and we’re talking a woman raised by a feminist, and a doctor with an understanding of disability) feels ongoing guilt from it.
    I think sexism is to a certain extent a disease of perception – I think it takes ongoing work for men (myself included) to grasp what women in a lot of cases have to do. There is stuff we do not see. Even the apparently trivial fact that I can get ready for work in five minutes while she needs fifteen, the practicalities of clothing – that’s work men make women do. I am not accusing individuals, I am speaking about what I have seen.

    With regard to the time spent, I just have to allocate resources efficiently and accept that sometimes you fail.

    Anyway. Half an hour of internet a day, and it’s drawing to a close.
    BDC

  24. says

    I think that Rachel has a great point in that women can be just as likely to feel guilty about not having a fair balance of domestic reponsibilities (being a good feminist) as they do about not doing enough of the domestic goddess thing. And I believe the majority of working women do have issues either with doing more than their fair share of housework, or feeling responsible for what doesn’t get done, as Julie says, or having other people assume she’s the one not pulling her weight (or THINKING that is what they are thinking).

    Everyone’s experience is different, as far as responsibilites, expectations, etc, but I do think the social pressure and internal pressure to be domestically successful weighs heavier on women, generally speaking.

    I’m lucky to have a working partner who is hugely supportive of my writing career (he views it as an investment in our future) and who sees the household chores as something we share, in varying percentages. It helps that neither of us feel the need for a neat-as-a-pin house (and um that his mother doesn’t live close enough to visit too often).

    Given that he supports the household financially, though, I have always felt as if I was obliged to do a higher percentage of domestic work, and I used to hold a lot more guilt about this. Once we had our first child, though, my feeling on this changed, because looking after a child on a day to day basis is such a HUGE job, I felt less guilt about the other household stuff. Though of course, being a mother brings its own levels of guilt as far as what you should be doing, how much active time you should be spending with them, etc.

    Being able to earn enough money from writing to contribute to her occasional daycare fees was a big thing for me, because it felt like I had earned that time and therefore had the right to use it for writing/myself rather than justifying those half days or days apart by just doing housework (I don’t think I’ve ever spent a day just doing housework unless it was just before a party or the arrival of a guest, but that doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t tell me that I should). As my child got older, the guilt-housework ratio changed again. Luckily my writing career developed and brought in some successes/income, which helped to balance that out.

    At the moment, I have a new baby, and book contracts. Which pretty much makes writing a ‘real’ job for me right now, and means that I feel I am pretty much automatically pulling my weight domestically from the childcare aspect alone. My partner luckily is of a similar mind, and has been habitually cooking & cleaning a lot more since the new baby joined us.

    The trouble with domestic chores is that they are never-ending, constant, and can be easily defined as what is not being done. Self-employment has taught me that tasks with deadlines get done fast than those without, and housework is all about things that should or could be done TODAY. Being able to embrace the fact that I’m a pretty crappy housewife has contributed largely to my ability to get writing done, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with phases of guilt, or that I don’t feel like it’s my failing on the occasions that the house is chaotically messy.

    It’s a constant balancing act.

  25. says

    Oops I meant to add, not because it adds anything to my story, but because of some of the questions in above comments, that I am Australian, not American. Also I was raised by a single mum which means I didn’t have any traditional modelling about who does what – I think that helps me do the minimum and cope with the guilt. Though my partner comes from a hugely traditional household in all senses of the word and has transcended that, which makes him extra awesome.

  26. says

    Speaking as a woman in a relationship, with no real bounds except for a 9-7job, master’s degree, and boyfriend who wants more time than she has…

    Personally, I’m very strong about my bounds. Perhaps this comes from being raised in a “non-traditional home” (both parents worked — father worked two jobs, mother worked and pursued her MS and MBA –, and I’m an only child) but I refuse to over-commit. My time is precious, and I won’t spend it unhappily. There are only so many hours in a day, and eight of them are dedicated to sleep.

    I’m not sure if it comes down to maintaining boundaries for yourself and asserting your needs as being equally important as the needs of others, or what, but I’ve found that being able to tell people “No” has been really helpful for my sanity. Not that I’m a selfish jerk (I don’t think, anyway). I mean, I just baked cupcakes for my friend’s birthday. That’s a nice thing, right? :) (Blackberry with lemon frosting.)

    If it’s ever hard to justify, I remind myself: when you’re happy, you’re better at what you do. Taking those hours to write might leave you ordering pizza some nights, but without that writing, you’d be annoyed and tired and might wind up still having to order that pizza anyway. (Plus, pizza is *so* tasty!) I spent a good deal of my life working towards the unobtainable expectations of others, and in my teens I gave that the finger. Haven’t looked back. Just pick out the opinions that matter: the ones that give you a paycheck, and the ones that support your happiest self :)

  27. says

    Like Morgan says, I think good selfishness is absolutely key. If you’re always saying yes to everyone else, essentially you’re saying no to yourself. You’ve got to draw lines in the sand. Sure, it’ll change (like, in my case, having a kid can really shake things up)–but establishing goals and making boundaries is essential.

    It’s also about keeping communication open. There is a lot about my writing that my husband doesn’t get, but he respects how important it is to me. That’s not to say it’s been easy, or that it’s easy now. He works the 9-5 job, and I stay at home with the child and supplement our income with writing. (I could kick myself for every time I’ve said to a new acquaintance, “Oh, my husband works and I stay at home.” Filing my nails and reading Vogue, apparently…) At any rate, over the last couple of years in particular, we’ve really hit our stride. That I’ve been more successful this year as a writer than any other has everything to do with our home life, and my ability to carve out a time and space for writing with my husband’s support (and understanding… we will never live in a picture perfect home unless we can afford a maid).

  28. Hellbound Heart says

    i agree with morgan and natania….a very wise woman once said to me “honey, if you don’t look after you, ain’t nobody else going to do it”……so true……
    i think that the vast majority of men are very unaware of the pressures and expectations that they and wider society place upon women…..contributing to the financial side of things, being super mum, being super wife, and i know from personal experience that one of the things that get sacrificed in this situation is time and freedom to pursue and do things that you want to do, whether it be writing or whatever you feel moved to do……
    and no, it’s not just a by-product of american society, it’s very pertinent in australia as well and as far as i know, western society in general…….

    peace and love……

  29. Hellbound Heart says

    …..or maybe mens’ brains aren’t wired to consider things like making sure there’s enough loo paper in the house and changing bed sheets once a week…..oooooh, i’m leaving myself open for attack on this! ;-)

  30. says

    Reading these replies, I get the idea that this is another male privilege: ‘I am not judged by the house I keep, and therefore have a lot more time to dedicate to personal pursuits’.

    In my house, both my partner and I write. We both have 9-5 jobs and the only responsibilities we really have are the cats. The house is never particularly clean. The guests we typically have round understand our priorities and are never too judgmental. We’ve talked about children, and both agreed we simply don’t have the time. As was pointed out earlier, raising children is pretty much a full-time job in itself.

    I never realised the pressures on women and the guilt associated with them were so acute. Thank you to all for sharing.

  31. says

    Hellbound Heart said: “…or maybe mens’ brains aren’t wired to consider things like making sure there’s enough loo paper in the house and changing bed sheets once a week…”

    Not an attack, but I think its learned behaviour. Jut about anyone learns it when they find themselves having to take responsibility for someone else, but more women than men are trained into it as children. My daughter has lived with me but not her mother for some years. And I know who does the washing up and most of the shopping and its not her. Of course she thinks she does more than she does. She estimates that she does about a quarter or a third of the washing up. I’d say more like one percent!

    And we’re nearly out of toilet paper again :-(

  32. Rachel Swirsky says

    “…or maybe mens’ brains aren’t wired to consider things like making sure there’s enough loo paper in the house and changing bed sheets once a week…”

    oddly, i thought most societies that existed long enough ago to contribute to evolutionary pressures lacked loo paper and bedsheets.

  33. Felix Gilman says

    on the evolutionary veldt, males who were too easily distracted by thoughts about loo paper made inefficient mammoth-hunters, and were easily caught off-guard by saber-toothed tigers. sadly, their genes did not pass on. i think you’ll find that Steven Pinker has proved this beyond reasonable doubt.

  34. says

    It seems that much of this discussion circles around guilt and finding time to write. Male and female, we’re all caught in that conundrum balancing family, ‘the day job’, partnership and writing all together without losing ourselves in the mix. I complained on my own blog today that I don’t have enough time to read after all the other stuff is done.
    It is true that expectations are higher on women, but as writers we’re all relegated to the back row by everyone else who says “you’re a writer? Yeah, I’d do that if I had some spare time.” as though all it requires is time.

    As to showing respect to your partner for all the support they give you to allow you to pursue your muse…dedicate your books to them with all your heart.

  35. says

    This topic has been weighing on me heavily lately. I started writing 15 years ago to save my sanity. I had four kids age 2 – 7 at the time and was home full-time. I had to do something more intellectually stimulating than watch Barney and play Barbies and Legos. Not that those aren’t stimulating but I needed more. I also took up quilting. Creative but can be dropped and picked up at a moment’s notice. It fills a different niche than writing.

    I now have 8 kids ages 6 – 23, all living at home. Most of them have mild autism, which adds its own burdens. My first novel was just published and things have changed. I write when I can, edit and market when I can’t.

    Mental energy and focus are necessary to good writing. Spending a day distracted by phone calls, bills, cooking, laundry, carpools, etc. is not a productive writing day. Unfortunately, most weekdays fit this category. Fortunately, my husband understands that I’m happier and more satisfied when I’ve had a good writing session. He lets me have most Saturdays to myself. I do have to lock myself in my bedroom and crank up the music to drown out the sound of children being children.

    I guess most of my guilt comes from not pursuing a “real” job or not being a good enough housekeeper/wife/mom/volunteer/fill-in-the-blank. As pointed out, most of this is societal pressure. The message comes from external sources but is internalized by our need to fit into the mold, to belong to the society in ways deemed acceptable. Writing fiction, especially science fiction, is marginalized even for men. For a woman? I need to embrace my inner nerd/geek/writer and just accept this is who I am. My kids still love me. My husband loves me. I need to love me.

    And let the floor go unswept and order out as often as I can afford it.

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