Writing Without a Wife, Take Two
This is it, the post that started my Writing Without a Wife journey, and became fascinating and illuminating interviews with primarily, but not exclusively female authors and artists about their journeys, as well as their best advice for balancing life and art. Join me on this site in the coming months as they tell you all their secrets, like:
Successful romance and women's fiction author Robin Lee Hatcher, with advice for the lovelorn writer; British mystery author Donna Fletcher Crow solves the mystery of an expiring career; a community of romantic suspense authors discover that writing doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit after all; in the midst of penning a book about ministering to singles in the church, an author finds love on an internet dating site; and we'll even let a couple men on the floor-- be the fly on the wall as award winning historical fiction author Peter Leavell and successful Amish fiction author Patrick E. Craig discuss what it's like to be the only male author in the room, what they've learned from women authors, what they find fascinating about women and even what drives them crazy about us...among other things. And the interviews continue. Stay tuned. Writing Without A Wife will kick off, appropriately, on Valentine's Day with romance author Robin Lee Hatcher. But in the meantime, a little throwback Thursday for you, with the post that started it all...
Recently, I attended a really great writer’s conference, which brought back memories and comparisons to other conferences. I learned early on, in college, not to ask that newbie writer question: “How do you find the time to write when there are so many other things in life crying out for your attention?” It elicits the usual smug look from the Author with the microphone – the gaze down the nose and the answer (say it with me, now), “You don’t find the time, you make the time.” Touché.
Many years later, after marriage and children, as I was beginning to catch glimpses of the world beyond sleepless nights, childhood illnesses, and so, so many diapers, I decided I wanted to write fiction. When I attended my first fiction writers conference I was more confident and just curious enough to ask that famous newbie question of the male keynote speaker – but from a new vantage point. It went something like this:
"I’m feeling the call to write, but it takes a lot of time to do well. I have small children and a husband with his own stressful career. I’ve been wondering lately whether and how much it is appropriate to take time from my spouse and parenting roles to give to my writing?”
As I suspected he would, the man in front blustered about being wholeheartedly committed to your calling, and spouted truisms like “writers write.” Finally, he kind of wound down…I don’t know, it may have had something to do with the faces of the women in the audience. After a pause he shrugged his shoulders and said, “The truth is, I have a really great wife. She takes care of all the other stuff while I write.” I appreciated his honesty, and I almost responded, “So what you’re saying is that to be successful, I should get myself a good wife?” I didn’t say it. I was confident, but not that confident.
At this most recent conference, the speaker had a running joke. When someone called him about taking on a project his first question was, “Does it pay?” You would need to hear the whole series to understand why this was funny, and it was funny. He said the phrase somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I couldn’t help wonder what a wife’s first question would be: something along the lines of, “Who will take care of the children?” Or maybe, “Will it conflict with my husband’s travel schedule?” Questions that the keynote speaker didn’t have to hesitate about because, I’m assuming, his wife took care of that. I’m also betting she did some major sacrificing in order to make ends meet in-between those paying gigs.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with how these men arranged their lives and made their decisions. They were answering God’s call, gave appropriate credit for their success to their wifely partners, and I know acted courageously and sacrificially in their own ways. In addition and understand, there is no way I’m going to let my role as wife and mother or my calling as a writer become excuses to shirk any of the roles and jobs I’m called to do. God forbid.
It all just helped me realize I needed to carry over a lesson from my last career. As I began to take on leadership roles and management positions, I looked around for mentors – people who could teach me how to manage well. Many of the best leaders and managers I knew were men, and I did learn from them. But it didn’t take long to realize that following their example could only take me so far. What worked for them wouldn’t necessarily work for me for the simple reason that they were men and I was a woman. I had to find my own way, or find women who could help me, and twenty-five years ago, that was easier said than done.
Lately, I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Numbers, which can be mind-numbingly (numbingly…get it?) boring in places. But it’s also helped me see how much context matters. The Old Testament God, without the revelation of Jesus Christ, could be seen as vindictive, a puppet master, ruthlessly moving human pawns in some unfathomable game. But taken in the context of Christ, who taught us that God would make the ultimate sacrifice to save us, that he loves us like children he would die to protect, suddenly so many of the Old Testament laws look different…they look like love.
As I’ve pondered this latest writer’s conference, there’s another verse from the Bible that I’m seeing differently, in love’s light, and taking it to heart.
“And older women, likewise…should teach what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women...”
I have a lot to learn, but I have also learned a few things over the years about being a woman, a wife and mother, and having a call to write. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned in a future post, but in the meantime, how about you other Christian women living a life in the arts, or just involved in the art of living. What is your one best jewel of wisdom that you would share with “the younger women?”