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Women: What We're Up Against

Dear female writers and other creatives,

I see you.

Maybe you’re a mom with small kids, unloading the dishwasher, throwing in laundry, trying to write a few paragraphs while they’re napping. You’re changing sheets and cleaning the bathroom and drinking coffee or Diet Coke or wine. You’re talking to your agent or editor from the back porch or front hall or upstairs bathroom while Dora is on in the den. You’re getting up on Saturday morning and going to the coffee shop or library for two hours to get some words on the page, or paying the babysitter or taking a half day and leaving them in daycare to finish that chapter. You’re working full time, or part time, or staying home, figuring out what to make for dinner that everyone will eat and filling out that marketing questionnaire and stopping to stack the blocks again. Feeling guilty about leaving the kids in daycare to do your day job, let alone some extra creative work time. And your mother-in-law will take them but she doesn’t get what you’re doing and so dealing with that judgement might not be worth it. It’s late at night and you should be in bed because one is going to get up soon but you are on a deadline and that chapter won’t rewrite itself. And honestly, half day preschool/full day preschool/kindergarten really is that Holy Grail/angels singing/light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll get there.

Maybe you’re with a significant other and don’t have kids, working full time or part time, annoyed by the question of when you will have kids, because you aren't sure or definitely don't want them, struggling to keep your boundaries because you really can’t go out to lunch today, you need to write. You’re sending stuff out and getting rejections, all of which contradict one another and none of which seem to help make the project better. You’re paying bills and balancing checkbooks that never seem in sync, planning a release party that you hope people will come to, wondering why your book isn’t getting any sort of marketing support, and building your twitter followers. At the day job, your boss wants you to do more, stay later, take on more projects. Or you’re seen as a “secondary earner” with a “hobby” and isn’t that nice because your partner is supporting you? Your partner wants you do be “more available,” and this book isn’t going to write itself while you’re watching Law & Order or The Crown or Awkward. Your friends call writing your “hobby”—if you tell them at all—and what’s the point, anyway? Here’s the point: You need to tell your story.

Maybe you’re single. You’re working full time, dealing with well-meaning friends who want you to date, go out more, travel. Your editor wants you to blurb a book, there’s laundry to do and bills to pay, and you have to get your car fixed. Your boss is not psyched that you’re taking time off to go on a self-organized mini tour, and your publicist forgot to notify two of the bookstores that you’re coming. There’s a guy with a book similar to yours whose story has gotten more attention. Or you’re really pretty and seen as a threat by other writers or librarians. Your book did get starred reviews, or maybe it didn’t. It made an award shortlist—or not. You’re discouraged. Try not to be.

Maybe you’re a writer of color, or a First Nations writer, or a disabled writer, or from another underrepresented group. You are all of the above, plus you’re being asked to explain things to people all the time. Or your book isn’t being reviewed by someone who will get it. Or there aren’t as many opportunities for it to be on the shelf. Or maybe people keep labeling your work as representative of an entire culture, or harassing you online for speaking your truth. Or maybe you’re not published, and trying to find a place where your story fits or can be seen. Or you’re the one “X-American” (fill in the blank) author who is visible. Or that’s not you, and someone else is in that role. I see you. I’m listening. I’m sorry.

It’s unremarkable, yet incredible: we juggle, we squeeze time, ask for favors, are exhausted. We are alone, yet in this together. The stories that we tell and share and promote and work on are important and needed. Together, we can move mountains.

I see you. I see you. I see you.

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