Sent by Susan Pieters
I was excited to write a post for “Write, Woman, Write!” because I thought I knew the ultimate advice to pass on, the secret truth that women needed to hear in order to write more:
Say, “No” to everything but your writing.
I felt this was the life raft which could save women from floundering in a sea of niceness. I drafted a post to encourage women to set limits, protect their time, and put themselves first.
I quoted Nora Roberts, who told her kids not to disturb her from writing unless there was blood. I paraphrased Alice Munro, who admitted she’d not stepped in to take care of relatives when the opportunity arose. I advised women to stop volunteering, stop giving away their time, stop being sucked into all the relational traps that women especially are heir to. I was pumped up with my own advice. I felt I had found my own silver bullet to destroy the dark forces that dragged me away from my writing.
But the trouble was, when I stepped away from the computer, I didn’t use that silver bullet. I’d spent an hour on a post I’d volunteered to write, a request from a friend I could have declined. I then made dinner for my adult kids, and even did their dishes. Had I violated every principle I had just written about?
I drafted a new post for “Write, Woman, Write!” It was a defence of being nice, a comfort for women like myself who couldn’t say, “No.” It was about the virtue of saying, “Yes.” I reflected on all the important life experiences I’d had from volunteer activities. I claimed that the best writers, historically, were “nice.” Writers who were suckers were strong, not weak, because putting themselves last was a part of being a sensitive, vulnerable, compassionate human. I claimed that being generous with one’s time was an expression of love and honesty. The final line of the post:
The day I stop being nice, is the day I start writing crap.
When I got up from the computer this time, I realized I was lying. Why did I equate being a doormat with being a good writer? Was I encouraging co-dependency? Why was I personally afraid of setting limits and being an assertive woman who could say no?
Well, third draft’s the charm. The only gift I have left is this:
Writing is hard. Embrace this truth. Because when I say “Yes” to other things, it’s usually because the diversion is easier than writing. Since anything is easier than writing, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Distracted. Blown off course.
Writing—good writing—is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s not easy because the truth is not easy. You have to dig for it. You have to go one direction, then change tack. You have to revise your assumptions. Question everything. Come full circle. Like in this post.
Writing is like being honest. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.