Carving Out Space-Time

The universe is doing it resonating thing again which means, as those of you who for whatever reason keep reading this blog know, SOAP BOX TIME! In which I encourage women to worry less about who might get an elbow in the stomach if they fail to step back when we choose to stand akimbo.

The best thing about NaNoWriMo  this year has been by far my NaEaYoWaThrWrANoMo group, or National Eat Your Way Through Writing a Novel Month, not only because of the incredible tea and baked goods (and they have been legendary), but because of the excellent writers I’ve been getting to know. There are four of us in the group–all women and all unpublished as of yet–and the most helpful facet of our interaction has been the constant stream of little emails of encouragement and commiseration and interesting links we’ve been exchanging throughout the month.

One of the writers is working on a novel whose main character is a young woman during suffrage in the United States. As this writer was describing the character’s key transformation to our group, I was struck by her use of the phrase “She’s learning to take up space in the world.” This resonated with me–one of my beloved writing mentors in college used those same words with me over and over and it’s a mantra I have to force myself to act on because we live in a world that makes it uncomfortable to take up space as a woman. That space-taking journey is still relevant for women nearly a century after women got the vote.

Doubt it?

Another writer in the group shared this article by Sarah Rees Brennan on the problems she faces trying to promote her writing. The reality of what faces even women who have “made it” to one degree or another in the creative world makes me nauseous. I just want to line up all the misogynists in the world and run down the line, high-fiving them in the face. While wearing an iron gauntlet. It’s not just men, to be clear. This is language women use on other women, which should give you a sense of just how deeply ingrained in us is the feeling that women, like children, should be seen and not heard, should sit in the background working their fingers to the bone without asking anything for themselves.

All of this was rattling around in my brainpan when one of the writers emailed the group noting her guilt over putting aside some other commitments in order to take time to write, and something struck a spark. She’s right. We are trained to feel nothing but guilt for saying no in order to take time to work on our personal creative goals. I have been getting up at 5:30 in the morning to try to squeeze out my word count without jeopardizing the time I spend on housework or grocery shopping or communicating with family or my paid job. And then staying up until 11 at night or later working on little projects to make the house “just so” for when I host Thanksgiving or trying to finish handmade gifts before Christmas.

Side note on that: whoever decided to put National Novel Month during one of the two most insane months for family holidays and folks who like to make gifts? You’re fired. I want to play along in, say, March, which is the most dreary and boring month and actually needs something to spice it up.

Back on track:  Why do I think my only option for finding time to write is to bankrupt my sleep cycle? Why is it so difficult to tell the dishes or the dust or the dirty clothes that they can wait because I have a scene begging to get out of my head? Why is it that I empathize so completely with the guilt my writer friend felt for making her writing work a higher priority?

It comes back around to the question of taking up space, or rather space-time, as learning to take that time for one’s work is a part of the process of learning to take up space in the world. I don’t know if I will ever stop hearing the nagging, whining guilt in my head telling me I should be less of a self-centered bitch, more of a good little woman, but I hope I will always be listening harder for the voice of my mentor. I’ll pass on that call to the rest of you women, creative or no: take up space in the world. Take up time. And let me know how it goes, because I can’t wait to see what you all do with your own little room in space-time.

And if our husbands can’t find clean pants one morning? I’m betting they can find the washing machine.

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