Friday Speak Out!: Do We Writers Need To Defend Our Time To Others

Friday, March 30, 2018
by Jeanine DeHoney

I remember being at dinner with family and friends and the conversation turning to work.

That dreaded feeling came over me of whether this time I would have to shrink like a wallflower into the background or would I have to defend my work schedule as a writer…again.

Although it wasn’t as structured now that I was freelancing fulltime, writing was still full of as many ebbs and flows as when I was teaching twenty adorable and precocious preschoolers for over twenty years. Writing, like at my former workplace, was stressful one day, exhilarating the next, made me feel like throwing in the towel one day, and made me feel so passionate about what I did the next day I thought it was a lovefest I would never retire from.

But at times others didn’t know that.

Their words:

"You’re so lucky you have all this free time to do nothing.” Or, “At least you don’t have to go to work like I do and deal with all this stress,” or “No wonder you can keep your house clean, cook a fantastic meal, spend hours at the library, attend that conference, etc., you have the time.”

And then there were those who thought there was a void in my life and lovingly suggested I fill my life with a myriad of activities because I had so much time on my hand.

Their words, words my husband always tells me not to be sensitive to or to ignore, weren’t meant to be a put down and didn’t come from a place of meanness. They just didn’t know, didn’t understand.

They didn’t know that writing, piecing together your thoughts like a jigsaw puzzle, editing, and doing more editing, is a laborious process. They didn’t know how you can never clock out like a regular nine to five job because as writers we can’t turn off our minds or creative energy like a water faucet even when we try or need to. And they didn’t quite understand how it is normal for us to see every situation intertwined with a story; be it a toddler using the Potty for the first time, buying a pair of red shoes, or protesting about gun violence or domestic violence or any type of despair in the world. We can’t let it dangle in front of us. We have to write about it.

There are never any “do nothing days” as a writer. After I finish my normal tasks, I can work for hours on end until I have a completed manuscript, one that meets my writing vision of making a reader’s heart swell with hope, faith and empowerment.

So do we writers need to defend our time to others? Not really. We know what we do. Our best retort is to just keep on writing.

* * *
Jeanine DeHoney has had her work published on several blogs, in magazines and anthologies. Among others her writing has been published in Essence, The Children's Ark, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby, The Write Place At the Write Time, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, True Stories Well Told, Parent. Co., Brain Child Magazine, Jerry Jazz Magazine, Today's Caregiver Magazine, and Rigorous Literary Magazine. She is an essayist in the anthologies "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul,” "Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from The Ones Sandwiched in Between," “Theories of HER-an experimental anthology, in the anthology, "In Celebration of Sisters," and upcoming in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Anthology, The Power Of Yes, in August of 2018.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Linda said...

I think you should stand up for what you do am also a writer although a blogger

Angela Mackintosh said...

Jeanine ~ Fantastic post! When you said, "They didn't know how you can never clock out ..." it's so true. Full-time writing is such a hard job because you have to make your own schedule, have to constantly be using your brain, and need to find a balance within yourself to succeed as a writer. It's been a long time since anyone has said something like that to me. I usually just tell them I run my own business, which I do, and so do you as a freelancer. People will think what they want to think. You can try to change their minds if you'd like, and maybe it'll open their eyes, but yeah, what's most important is to just keep writing.

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Great post! You're so right, we are doing work that often isn't taken seriously, and then we run the risk of not taking it seriously ourselves. This would happen so often: friends would call (and I'd answer) and ask me what I was doing and I would say I'm writing. Then they would say oh good you're free do you want to meet for lunch and maybe go for a walk. Lol. So number one I stopped answering the phone. I'm working, right! I felt that same thing that you mentioned, that shrinking back into the corner and feeling like I had to defend it. Thanks for your inspiring words!

Karen Rushing said...

What a great post Jeanine! When I was a child, a family friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My response was, I wanted to be a writer. Their response was, that writing wasn't a real job and you'll never make a living from writing! It has taken almost a lifetime to overcome those words and do what I have been created and called to do! So, I thank you for your inspiration and courage and the encouragement to go forward and write in my own life! Blessings!

Linda Rosen said...

I know how you feel, Jeanine. It's hard for anyone who doesn't write to understand what we do, how much time we spend with our characters whether in front of the computer, with a pen and paper, or just in our heads. I have trouble when friends want to get together and I want to stay home submitting my work to agents, magazines, whatever. If I tell them I'm submitting, they ask what's happening with my novel wondering why I'm spending so much time on it. They can't comprehend the process of trying to get a book published and expect it to happen overnight so I just say, I'm busy and hope they don't ask what I'm doing. And then I get back into my zone and promise myself I won't answer the phone - but that just doesn't seem to happen. I've got to get better at it.

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