Oh my goodness, I don’t know where to begin except to say thank you for articulating nearly every feeling I’ve had while being a mother and a writer simultaneously. I loved your phrase about life before children as a “drifting miasma of mood.” I can so relate to that. And the idea of listening to a podcast and going vegan. Ha! Close to my experiences as well.
It’s very hard to have perspective when you are in it, but–
1) Rufi’s problem isn’t motherhood. It’s that she is married to someone who does no childcare whatsoever. Maybe they need to renegotiate their values and relationships. And what kind of idiot leaves his underwear on the floor?
2) Yes, it’s impossible to get a lot done when your children are very young. If she does not have any more children it will be about 10 years of her life. Then she can have the next 40 to write her heart out.
3) There are PLENTY of writers who are mothers. I would say prob. 50% of the great ones. This need for drama and bohemian existential crises is a bunch of Hemingway bullshit. Plenty of writers kept to a strict schedule and wrote at set hours during the day. Thomas Mann. Marcel Proust. Yes, you can be a great artist IF you are a great artist, in small spurts every day, although it is harder.
4) Are those childless, neurotic writers (hello Franzen) really happy? Do you want to spend half your life in a lonely hotel room so you can reap praise in the paper? Or do you want a full life, with work, and family?
You are LUCKY, even if your days are long and sometimes frustrating.
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I had not known that I felt that way until I said it. It frightened me that I said it. That night at the party, I kept thinking about it, and on the flight home, I kept thinking about it, and no matter how I looked at that phrase I couldn’t make it any less true. If something disastrous were to happen and my husband were to leave me or die or simply vanish, I would never remarry. I actually cannot imagine even dating another man. Part of this is out of intense loyalty to my husband, but part of it is because the idea of cooking some idiot man dinner for the rest of my life makes my skin prickle with rage.
Escapology is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps
Offill’s point is that greatness as an artist is not something you can achieve in a forty-hour work week, but something that must consume you entirely, even to the point of sublimating your own desire to survive as an animal, i.e. eat and sleep. Certainly, then, it would seem to follow that art is not something one can achieve in a spare two hours after the kids have been put to bed. And yet, some women have. Toni Morrison comes to mind as a rather blinding example, writing The Bluest Eye while raising two children on her own and teaching full-time at Howard University. Really, if one considers the hours, years and decades many celebrated male writers have spent doing little else than drinking, perhaps it is not necessary to give up eating or sleeping or even raising one’s children after all. But is it fair to ask women to spin straw into gold over night as their children sleep? Or, more practically, is this even an attainable goal for most women?
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The eight months I spent in that exotic land were the start of a romance that has never cooled. They would make me a lifelong traveler to Africa and Asia and other remote cultures and would forever change how I thought about the world. Remember: Your biggest stories will often have less to do with their subject than with their significance—not what you did in a certain situation, but how that situation affected you and shaped the person you became.
George Orwell - Rudyard Kipling - Essay
But if you prefer the other route—to write about your younger years from the wiser perspective of your older years—that memoir will have its own integrity. One good example is Poets in Their Youth, in which Eileen Simpson recalls her life with her first husband, John Berryman, and his famously self-destructive fellow poets, including Robert Lowell and Delmore Schwartz, whose demons she was too young as a bride to understand. When she revisited that period as an older woman in her memoir she had become a writer and a practicing psychotherapist, and she used that clinical knowledge to create an invaluable portrait of a major school of American poetry at the high tide of its creativity. But these are two different kinds of writing. Choose one.