Dear Literary Ladies,
I’m having trouble juggling parenting and writing. I can’t live without writing, but every day brings a thousand interruptions, and I’m just not getting anything done. How can I make this a more positive experience, and feel less frustrated? Did any of you manage to raise a few kids and create a body of work simultaneously, and if so, how did you do it?
Perhaps the most useful thing about being a writer of fiction is that nothing is ever wasted; all experience is good for something; you tend to see everything as a potential structure of words. One of my daughters made this abruptly clear to me when she came not long ago into the kitchen where I was trying to get the door of our terrible old refrigerator open; it always stuck when the weather was wet, and one of the delights of a cold rainy day was opening the refrigerator door. My daughter watched me wrestle with it for a minute and then she said that I was foolish to bang on the refrigerator door like that; why not us magic to open it? I thought about this. I poured myself another cup of coffee and lighted a cigarette and sat down for a while and thought about it; and decided that she was right. I left the refrigerator where it was and went in to my typewriter and wrote a story about not being able to open the refrigerator door and getting the children to open it with magic. When a magazine bought the story I bought a new refrigerator . . .
It is much easier, I find, to write a story than to cope competently with the millions of daily trials and irritations that turn up in an ordinary house, and it helps a good deal—particularly with children around—if you can see them through a flattering veil of fiction. It has always been a comfort to me to make stories out of things that happen, things like moving , and kittens, and Christmas concerts at the grade school, and broken bicycles; it is easier, as Sally said, to magic the refrigerator than it is to wrench at the door.
—Shirley Jackson, Come Along with Me, ©1948
Posted by Nava Atlas Thursday, August 6, 2009