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.