Me, twenty or more years ago, when I was ten or so, that’s when I started reading SF. I still hadn’t read everything library had to offer. This was before Twitter, Facebook, online fan fiction communities and the endless stream of data you can find if you know how to surf through all the unnecessaries. There was no way to know what your favorite writer was doing in real time. More so, often you weren’t quite sure if that author was alive or not. Books were old, and notes about authors were scarce.
My very own source of endless stream of data, and wisdom, was my older brother who knew how to find things out even without Google. So, he, or we, read this interview, or was it an article? in which Ursula K. Le Guin (at least I remember it was her, I’m pretty sure it was, because then it couldn’t be someone else, there was only her, Bujold was yet to come for me) was describing how it she became an author. We knew her as a feminist, a strong female character.
In that piece (which influenced me very much even if I remember it wrong – I haven’t checked) she said that she wanted to write, so she sat down with her husband and talked with him about it. He said ok, you can write (in my mind then that was “you’re allowed”), but only if it doesn’t affect our daily routine, if all chores are done, and children are ok.
She said fine. And then she went and got up one or two hours before everybody and wrote, then she would do all her chores. And she became not only a writer but a legend. Maybe all this happened in different order, but what I took away form it was that she got up early, did all her chores, and stuck to her work in the time when nobody needed her, probably taking time from her sleep.
So, there we were, me and my brother, young and naive. We looked at each other and I asked him. What kind of feminism is this? He said he was wondering the same thing. We concluded that it happened a long time ago, maybe in the sixties, so times were different then, maybe that was courageous then, and we left it at that.
Later, or perhaps before, I read a piece from Virginia Wolf about how a woman, if she wants to write, needs a room of her own. I liked that very much, and she lived long before le Guin. Of course Wolf was my idol. Now, twenty and some years later, it’s after midnight, all is dark, my children are asleep, and I’m writing this on my kitchen table that I’ve just cleaned up from milk, juice and sandwiches.
Funnily enough, I’m on my laptop, Twitter exists and do so many other thins, young people on tumblr are making fun things with pictures of their movie heroes, fanfic is being written all around the world, but some things haven’t changed at all, and I don’t think all the feminism in the world can change them.
One, the biggest, is that children are small, and their needs have not changed by the technology or progressive thinking. They still need to eat, to be changed, to get out, to put to bed and the cleaning up after them still needs to be done. Even with the help of a husband, or an equal partner, that consumes a lot of time. If you don’t get to everything in time there will be hell to pay. Screaming children don’t want to listen to an essay written by Virginia Wolf unless you turn it into a lullaby.
The second thing is that, if you’re a struggling author who can’t support your whole family (in which case they would need to give space and peace to you, because of the money) your husband still needs to get to work in the morning.
Thirdly, despite my conviction that by the time I grow up nobody will cook anymore because take out will be king and queen, everybody needs to eat, and for unemployed struggling author that is the task at hand.
So, what my vast life experience thought me is in what the difference between le Guin and Wolf was. The second one had no children. More free time makes for more feministic views, but that’s been known since the washing machine.
In this one conclusion is that to write, for mothers and wives (because husbands consume time too), you need to cut into your sleep somewhere. Le Guin did it in the morning, I’m more of night owl, so I steal the time between midnight and two in the morning.
The good news is that you can get used to less sleep, the children beat it out of you anyway. The bad news is that you shouldn’t do it for too long, because bad things can happen when you’re drowsy. But children don’t stay small forever. Right?