Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jane Understood My Pain.

Being a stay-at-home mom with a lot of education, interests, and hobbies, I get asked to dish out my time here and there for various causes. Now, they are all important and worthy, but I still try to spend most of my hours writing. And I work at keeping the majority of my associations from knowing that I "waste" my time writing novels without getting paid to do it. (...Yet!)

The most productive writing time I have is during nap time for the nearly two year old and "quiet time" for the five and a half year old (if she's not at school). This time is sacred time and I find myself constantly fighting for it. Everyone wants a piece of those couple of hours. And by gum, sometimes when I give in and let other things take priority, I feel horrible about it. Like some unproductive slob. Writing is therapy for me and you know the old adage, "if mom ain't happy, nobody is happy". And I'm not happy if I haven't worked on a book at least a little each day.

I recently audio-reread Pride and Prejudice. I love to listen to audio books while I walk/exercise and this is my favorite book of all time (I know! Me and every other thirty-something year old female). But I was thinking a lot about Jane Austen this time, how she had to publish this book under the byline of "From the lady author of Sense and Sensibility" and it made me suddenly grateful. She knew my pain! (In a way.) Jane was a lady and it was unacceptable for a lady to write and publish novels back in 1811. So she hid the fact she was writing. But how did she explain to people what she did with large blocks of her time? How did she hide her obsession? And moreover, what excuses did she give for not doing other things so that she could secret away at home and write?

For decades she must have suffered to hide her writing time, until word got out via her brother that she was the "lady" writing these marvelous books. That can't have been fun, keeping such a secret and it was a LONG TIME after she'd set forth to write her first book that people began to find out what she did. (Like from 1795 to 1813, I think.)

One story I heard was that she wouldn't let anyone fix a creaky board just outside the door of the room where she would write. That way she could hide her papers away in her desk before someone entered the room. She went through pains to keep her occupation secret.
And I wish I knew what she did to get out of appointments when she wanted to write instead!
My tactic is ambiguity. It's not the best recourse and I wish I had better, but I just tell people I have "stuff" to do when my son is napping and leave it at that. I'm a horrible liar but if I look uncomfortable enough, people generally leave me alone and won't ask anymore questions. Does anybody have a better tactic for keeping certain time sacred for doing what they want to do? I would love a better idea than my own....
Perhaps in the meantime I'll utilize my caller ID more and install traffic cameras in the driveway.
...And thank Jane, again and again, for her books and for her example.


  1. I hear ya - Mommy time is sacred!!!! At least you are doing something wonderful during your time! I hurry and clean and then plop on the couch with hot cocoa and a book... (I know, you are not suprised by that!)

  2. Books are wonderful uses of time--I mean, you could be drinking your cocoa and watching soaps! ;)