Gleanings: Pen on Fire and One Woman Caretaker Lets Go

“My women students, especially, grumble that there is never enough time to write and still get everything else done. Rarely do I hear a man complain about time, perhaps because–and I’m going to make a sweeping generalization here–men tend not to be the caretakers. Men make themselves and their needs a priority, after which they have time for everyone and everything else… But we women, we are so loaded down with commitments and obligations it’s no wonder we find little time to write.” ~ Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire.

It is a school holiday, so 8-year-old Grandson is here with me. But it is Monday, and a writing day. I got my cup of tea and said, “I’m going to be up at my computer.” Just now the dog has begun to bark at the backdoor. I started to get up and then stopped, sat back down. I choose to continue to write. There is a boy and a caretaker for my mother downstairs who can see to the dog.

This is a huge shift for me, a born-in-the-blood caretaker. A woman who was, as many Southern women were in my day, raised, and falsely so, from birth to be responsible for everyone and everything in the household and family. That bent of my nature and training has been the largest block to my writing. Yes, I’ve written some thirty-six books, but I was only able to do it because my son grew up and insisted on living his own life, my husband had a healthy life of his own, and we moved to the country far from neighbors, in effect isolating me and blessing me with long solitary hours.

Then my grandchildren came along and my elderly mother needed care, and my care-taking nature rose up and before I had any idea that my writing life was being shoved aside and buried under everyone else’s needs. Buried under my grandiose idea that I was responsible for holding up the sky. 

Now caretakers get a lot of scolding in this culture, but frankly, where would humanity be without us? The long line of cars picking up children at school give evidence of how much we caretakers are needed. When I look back at the past six years in which I’ve struggled to write, and only marginally succeeded, when I’ve felt frustrated and given out, I see that I did right in caring for people who needed me. And what joy I’ve received from giving of myself! I’ve grown in stamina and compassion and wisdom and loving deeply. But everything passes. It is time to fold the caretaker cape away, or at least hang it up for hours at a time.

For the past two weeks, Monday through Friday, I have committed to writing every morning. I have showed up each morning on the page of a new novel. I have done it on purpose, taken the steps away from care-taking everyone else, even the house, and turned to care-take my writer self. With each step, the writing becomes the powerful force of habit. And page by page adds up. The novel is taking shape, and with it my writing life draws breath. And so do I.

God bless all we writers.


14 thoughts on “Gleanings: Pen on Fire and One Woman Caretaker Lets Go

  1. CurtissAnn, I hear you! At one point last year when I was struggling with time issues in my writing, I asked my boss — a full-time pastor — how he’d managed to carve out the time to write his book on the side. He looked at me somewhat blankly. He was able to work on most of it at home with his wife and children in the next room, and it appeared that distractions/interruptions were not a big issue. What? And this is a man I know to be very compassionate to others and very giving to his family.

    When men put up the metaphorical “Do-Not-Disturb” sign, it’s understood.

    When my kids were smaller, they slid a note under my office door to give me the urgent news that there was a crack in the living room stucco.

    Maybe it’s largely because we don’t get a lot of practice or encouragement enforcing it … but for women, “Do Not Disturb” just doesn’t carry the same weight!


    • Oh, dear friend, you put it all so well. Your pastor has a Wife! Years ago I read Eugenia Price’s romance novels. She was a single woman. In order to write novels, she hired a live-in housekeeper to handle the home for her. That worked well for years—until the woman found a man and married! Today I did take two hours to write, but that also put on the back burner the household accounts that waited while I unpacked some lamps I’d ordered, discovered the order was incorrect so had to deal with that, and while I was on the phone with the company, Mom’s caretaker called to me—big trouble, both downstairs toilets were backing up, meaning clogged sewer pipes. I went outside, unearthed the sewer clean-out cap, got the big wrench and opened it, discovering I definitely needed to call the plumber! After that it was running to get grandson from school, back to deal with the plumber. Good Lord, I’m making myself tired. LOL! I need a wife!

      Sending hugs, CurtissAnn



  2. CurtissAnn, your words are always a blessing. They always ring true and give meaning to the moments of doubt that I carry. I too must find (or make) myself become more disciplined in writing again. Procrastination has become my anchor weighing me down. I must get beyond this stumbling block. I love your term giver of care. For indeed that is what we do. I think I will be using that in future support group meetings. You are always a great inspiration! Hugs and blessings to you, my dear friend!


    • Carolyn, dear friend, Sometimes we are ahead of God with those things we want to do. I want to be ready for everything far earlier than I am. I’ve struggled to write for these past six years, and I think I’ve needed to do that. Growth is struggle I think. Press on! Write when you can. Hugs, CurtissAnn



  3. I was reflecting on this today as well, Curtiss Ann. I had a 6 year old here for the day – it was a JOY to have him to care for and he was so passionate about helping me with the farm. But it meant that his dad picked him up after work and then I had to zip off to an evening meeting and then get home and have late dinner, and no time for much else. I decided to make sure I read this evening, at the very least. It is plum-difficult to make the time to write or to care for yourself when you are an all-in-caregiver. I’d like to think I modeled it for my own children, now that they’re young adults, but I see how much of me is in them, how much they give as well. And reflecting on this on my drive home this evening, I though, even if they are going to fall into the same pratfalls and pitfalls I may have inadvertently laid out for them, it doesn’t take away from being good people, and it doesn’t take away from me being a good person. It is something to strive for, to make sure to care for ourselves as well as others. God bless you.


    • Tammy, thank you for sharing your thoughts, and most especially for pointing out how we are examples, and being a caregiver, a healthy giver of care but not a format, can be this example for our children. We don’t have to say a word. I often think how my husband welcomed my mother into this house to live with us, how he would cook for her and do kind things for her as she aged. He was an example for me, as his father was for him, as I hope I am now for our son. And the striving for our own life is an example, too.

      Sending hugs across the miles, CurtissAnn



  4. Aw, yes, the women’s dilemma. It makes me think of teacher Stephen Gaskin’s comment on this life challenge and his observation of women: “You’re the one with the tits!” And he was right. I’m sure we are hardwired, CurtissAnn, and it’s not just our social conditioning. Look at other mammals. I am meanwhile delighted you are giving your dearest Writer Self a hard won claimed space. To everything we must turn. Can’t wait to read your latest! Love, Kathryn xoxo


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