Mother versus Novelist (the MMA of mother-guilt, consecration, writing, children, and permission)

8.1.12 | | 37 comments

When I first got married I was the Relief Society secretary in married student ward. I did a lot of observing. And a lot of visiting. So many, many visits every month to make sure every newlywed woman in the USU 45th ward knew that someone at Church knew her name. It was a good experience but one thing has haunted me for the last decade. And it’s time to get it off my chest.

We went to visit a girl named Tessa, a newlywed living in her in-laws basement apartment while they were on a mission. so the Relief Society president, Ann, and I walked around back of a half-acre hobby farm property and rang a doorbell on It was a lovely visit. We chatted and then shared the message. The Relief Society President and Tessa had a marvelous time. I left with a weight on my chest and my mind in turmoil: all my hopes to be a world-class novelist were dashed. God was against me.

I knew it. In those sacred oh-so-private fleshy tables of my heart, I knew God didn’t want me writing novels. Or anything else. God wanted me to have babies.

I knew this because there was a quote from President David O. McKay in which he basically said something like, “The world doesn’t need more novelists. It needs more good mothers.” I walked away knowing I couldn’t be both and dreading the choices in front of me.

That was June of 2002 and time passed. I had four babies (and one miscarriage). There’s been more than a decade of marriage. There have been innumerable “learning experiences” (read: meltdowns, failures, and small rebellions–on my part and the kids’). There have been glorious moments of children running to wrap their arms around me or giggling in the sunshine or learning to read or finally conquering that two wheeler. There have been small writing opportunities and lots of learning about writing (read: crappy manuscripts, big ideas, ward skits, rejection letters, and book reviews).

But there have been no novels. No Master’s Degree. No world-changing literature produced by me.

Most days I’m okay with that. After all, Jane Smiley may believe that all great novelists require a revolutionary spirit and that you can really only achieve that in your twenties (Seriously. She wrote that in 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel) but that doesn’t make it true. There’s a lot of time to write a novel and only one time to raise my kids. No book is worth sacrificing their needs (and possibly crossing God).

AND I have these four awesome kids who have made my life incredibly more textured and deep and amazing than anything I could have imagined on my own. I have all sorts of nooks and crannies in my heart that I never knew existed and I’ve stocked them full of living.

It’s been a long road of accepting God’s will and giving up what seemed to be the most important thing in the world. Of trusting Him more than myself and my own instincts. Some days it was a fierce and bitter fight in my head. Peace only came with a willingness to consecrate myself to His ideas. I adopted a sort of manifesto of maternity: I would be like Abraham, and the millions of mothers before me, and put the thing I valued most on the altar–except it wouldn’t be my child. It would be my self.

But for the first time in ten years, I’m not pregnant or nursing. I’m not getting up in the middle of the night with one or more needy children. I only have one child in diapers and, omigosh!, she’s potty training. Yes, they keep me busy but we’re not living in the constant state of emergency that is infancy.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

And in that light there are a million ideas for a novel. A good one. One that gives me goosebumps and dares me to write it in ways no other idea has.

So of course, I’m awash in guilt. Is it okay to move on from the babies? Is it okay to pursue this novel? Is it okay to begin to reintroduce my self to me? Is it okay to reclaim what I finally, willingly gave up?

The only real way to know was to go back to the quotation. Read it again and figure out what it really means. Maybe what it meant ten years ago isn’t what it means now? Can I find permission somewhere in the dichotomy of female spirituality and being?

It turns out the quotation was from the June 2002 Visiting Teaching message. It said,

“[The] ability and willingness properly to rear children, the gift to love, and eagerness … to express it in soul development, make motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world. She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, … deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God.”

That wasn’t what I remembered. Seriously. That is completely different. So I did a ton of Googling. Again, I can’t find the quote. I can’t find the words that were the fire behind so many decisions. It is entirely possible those words don’t belong to anyone other than me.

So either I’m a really bad listener or the Spirit rephrased it in my head or (and this is most likely) some combination of the two: me being a bad listener to the Spirit. Or maybe I got it right then and I’m getting it right now. Maybe a prophet’s words can be two things at once.

I don’t regret the choices I made, though. I don’t think there was any other way to become the mother my children needed me to be. I don’t think there was any other way for me to become the grown-up I needed to be.

You know what this means, though, right? It means I have permission to go play with all those ideas in the light at the end of the tunnel. Ideas that perhaps would have never been had I picked a different path.

Maybe there was no other way for me to become the writer I (still) need to be.

37 comments: “Mother versus Novelist (the MMA of mother-guilt, consecration, writing, children, and permission)

  1. Katie L.

    This is beautiful and wonderful, Laura.

    I have no doubt that your experiences have prepared you for the family life AND artistic life God has in store for you.

  2. William Morris

    I turn 40 this year. I just got serious about writing fiction this year. And I completely agree that starting late may just mean that you have more of a wellspring of experience and ideas to play with.

  3. Laura

    William– following you on Facebook has proved tome that you are a fountain of writing ability! You are on fire this year.

  4. Laura

    William–my question for the men out there: do you all ever feel this stress about being one thing or the other? Or is this something only the ladies fret over?

  5. Beth

    Laura – this really struck a chord with me. I have two little ones at home, but I really want to write, also (and do about a million other things!).

    This kind of reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother about a year after I graduated with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. I found it nearly impossible to get a job in my field, and I decided I wanted to pursue writing instead. I said, “I should have just majored in creative writing, since I’m not using my Arabic anyway.” My mother replied, “Well, you still LIKED your major, and learned a lot. And now you have something to write ABOUT.”

    I keep telling myself that this period of my life that involves diapers and vomit and tantrums will add a dimension to my future endeavors that I would otherwise lack. There is no light at the end of my tunnel, but someday there will be.

    Also, I really appreciated the fact that you made mention of your miscarriage. I have had two, but not many people think miscarriages “count” when it comes to childbearing.

  6. Laura

    Beth–thank you for your kind words! I’m glad this struck a chord with you. I think it’s something a lot of women writers in the church have to struggle through. And my heart goes out to you regarding your miscarriages. Such heartbreak. I’m a firm believer that they count.

  7. Luisa Perkins

    Laura, I could have written a virtually identical post five years ago. I took a twelve-year “maternity leave” after my first novel was published when I was 28. Thanks for your honesty and courage in posting this.

  8. William Morris

    “do you all ever feel this stress about being one thing or the other?”

    Yes. All the time. Writing takes me away from family time and church service and volunteer service. Plus I have very little chance at making any money from it so I also experience guilt over whether I should be using that time to do consulting/freelance work and bring in extra income.

    At the moment I’ve decided to just be mediocre at everything (except my day job) so to a certain extent I’ve punted the issue. Even with my renewed focus on writing, we’re still only talking an average of 5,000 words of new fiction a month (which means two years to write a novel [which is part of why I’m not writing novels]) and about 6-8 hours a month, including writing, revising, formatting and submitting.

    That being said — as I’ve discussed in the past, I have made a couple of choices that facilitate carving out that time:

    1. My family and I live in an apartment, and we live within a mile of my in-laws. That means that I have three hours Saturday mornings to write plus get volunteer and church service done (emails, etc.) because my daughter has a sleepover at the grandparents house most Friday evenings, and I don’t have to get up Sat. mornings and mow the lawn and clean the garage, etc. If I could do a full three hours every single Saturday, that would be awesome, but while that doesn’t always happen, it happens enough that I can reach my writing goal (although sometimes I also need to squeeze in a weeknight evening here and there).

    2. I take public transportation to work. I have yet to harness that time for writing and am envious of those who can, but I just am not able to at the moment. There’s not a long enough sustained time on one bus, and I don’t have the right tools to do that (neither a smartphone nor writing out longhand really works well for me). However, that does give me time for reading (which is important for building up intellectual energy) and generating ideas and outlines and notes (prewriting) so that when I can take time to write, I can kick out the words at a pretty decent rate.

    3. I work in higher ed/nonprofit, which means, that although my job is fairly demanding and stressful, I’m usually never working more than 40-45 hours a week.

  9. Laura

    Luisa– That is encouraging to hear! Especially since you have a new book out–and it’s getting some good reviews.

    Wm–it’s good to know that men worry about this kind of stuff, too. Sometimes I get a little jealous thinking that male writers don’t have as much pressure on the them to set it aside for family and Church. But maybe you all do and I just don’t see it. I also appreciate that you point out the sacrifices you are willing to make for your family and your writing. Sounds like you are striking a good balance

    And, yeah, they do count. I’m surprised how often people need to be reminded.

  10. William Morris

    I should also add: fighting it and/or narrowly channeling it for 10 years wasn’t the smartest idea either. I’m happier when I’m actively engaged in creative storytelling. Now, I also need to make sure it doesn’t consume my life (because like most creative types I can be a bit addictive), which is why it’s probably wise for me personally that I have all these other obligations. There’s also the fact that when I have had the biggest stretches of time in my life, I’ve also been the most careless with it, so in some ways I need the structure of everything else so I can then slide the fiction writing in to the gaps and have something to hold it up.

  11. William Morris

    Laura:

    here’s the thing: there’s an ugly part of me that deeply resents the fact that there are quite a few upper middle class women in the church who can rely on their husbands to bring in a nice income and so have time during the day (yes, even though I know that running a household and managing children is not easy and can be all-consuming) to write and can write without any pressure to make money.

    And at least when they aren’t writing, they get to interact with their kids rather than co-workers. Again: not easy, but the rewards that come with daily interaction with children are higher than with co-workers.

    So I’m not sure which male writers don’t have pressure on them to set their writing aside for church and family. Maybe a couple of academics or full-time writers. But there are quite a few Mormon moms who write (and are published regularly).

  12. Moriah Jovan

    there’s an ugly part of me that deeply resents the fact that there are quite a few upper middle class women in the church who can rely on their husbands to bring in a nice income and so have time during the day (yes, even though I know that running a household and managing children is not easy and can be all-consuming) to write and can write without any pressure to make money.

    Amen, but let’s not forget the mothers who also work for money full time (as in, don’t have the luxury of depending on the husband’s income) who still manage to get things written.

    I have no sympathy. I have only had children for nine years, but when I truly wanted to write, I did, children and full-time job be damned.

    Laura, over the last few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that you want to have written more than you want to write, that you view writing as a chore you feel guilty for not completing, like scrubbing a toilet. You sound utterly tortured by the prospect of doing it.

    And yes, I know you’ll say, “I knew you were going to say something like this, Mojo, because it’s easy for you.” It’s not EASY for me. I just have the desire to sit down and do it–and let me tell you, I didn’t have that desire for six years. I was okay with that.

    What I seem to be hearing you say is that you don’t actually have that desire–which is FINE, but it seems like you keep trying to force yourself to ACQUIRE the desire, which is unhealthy.

    And so this is offered not to be mean or sarcastic or anything else, it’s offered out of genuine befuddlement and, believe it or not, concern: Examine your motives, your actual creative desires/impulses, and be honest about whether or not you truly want to write.

    If you do, sit down and do it.

    If you don’t, so what?

  13. Moriah Jovan

    Oh, I want to add something, which is that I learned this by sad experience.

    My beloved hobby since I was 15 was counted cross stitch. And then I made a business out of it. It became a chore akin to scrubbing a toilet.

    I haven’t picked up a needle in five years. I keep my stuff. I may never. I don’t know. I’m still in mourning for the loss of my love.

    So please don’t think I don’t know how this process goes, to let go of something that’s part of you, part of your identity. Several things in my life have had to go bye-bye in varying degrees and I mourn them all, but that one I mourn the most.

  14. Mahonri Stewart

    “my question for the men out there: do you all ever feel this stress about being one thing or the other? Or is this something only the ladies fret over?”

    Oh, you don’t know the grief I’ve gotten from some people for focusing so much on writing and teaching when I could have been a perfectly good lawyer or businessman! The pressure for Mormon men (or just men in general) to be a good provider, etc. is enormous, and anything that takes away from that in any degree is seen unfavorably except by the most patient and understanding of people.

  15. William Morris

    MoJo:

    That’s why I specified upper middle class moms with husbands who make that income level happen by themselves. :-)

    And to be perfectly honest, not only is that resentment ugly, it’s bound up with some overall class issues that I’m working through.

    Laura:

    For all its’ bluntness, I think the advice is solid. I had to have that moment where I tried to figure out exactly what I wanted (and what I could reasonably accomplish). Once I knew that, I found the (little bit of) time to make it (sort of) happen.

  16. William Morris

    Also: it’s still terrifying and a struggle. I just am able to get past that a bit easier now and once I’m immersed in the writing, then I’m happy. The before (I don’t have time. I can’t do this!) and after-the-initial-writing-session-afterglow (It sucks. I’m never going to be published) are also still very much a struggle.

  17. Mahonri Stewart

    As to the women’s side of things, I met Shannon Hale a couple of times and how she goes about it was interesting. She was a full time Mom and would write during the kids’ naps, etc. Of course, that meant not as much rest or down time (unless you count writing as down time, which I don’t) which could be pretty hard after so much hard work with kids, etc.

    But that’s one thing I find ironic. People don’t tell women, “You have to choose between being a mother or watching TV” or “You have to choose being a mother or Facebook” or “You have to choose between being a Mother and your Mommy Blog”… that would be nonsense. So why do we extend that to women and mothers in the arts? Even the busiest of people usually at least have a little bit of time to themselves during the day. What they choose to do with that time is their business and if something productive comes of it like a novel, or even if she’s lucky enough and becomes the primary source of income for a family, as in the case of Stephenie Meyer, tell me what’s wrong with that?

  18. Lisa Torcasso Downing

    Two points, the 1st regarding Laura’s question to the male writers. Mormon feminism, and feminism in general, has, IMO, developed a set of women who aren’t thinking beyond themselves. In our culture, men are expected to work to provide for their families. Then care for their wives and kids. There is not time in years to come when those demands lighten, like there is for the many of our women writers. (Yes, many of our women are employed.That isn’t relevant for my purpose here.I’m speaking of the men.) Men have it tough in our culture too. And men who write? My hats off to all of them.

    A lot of traditional mormon moms–and I’m one of them–don’t write when the kids are young. I felt guilty bc I had a patriarchal that commanded me to keep writing.I didn’t feel I could and still be as “there” for the kids as I needed to be. That was partly true. But I also didn’t really know what/how to write, even if I didn’t fully accept that. If Jane Smiley actually said that only people in their 20s can write great stuff, she’s crazy. People in their 20s and even their 30s don’t really have enough of life under their belt (speaking in generalizations, I admit) to have much to say. At least not to me. Moriah is her wonderfully blunt self, but what she said fit me. I wanted to write and when I sat down, what came out was, well, stale. My voice wasn’t clawing its way up my spine from the deepest part of me.I was parroting others, or play acting in writing what i though lit fic should be. Experience, and life lived, changed that. It wasn’t that my kids got older and I had time. It was that I’d grown up, that I was fuller person. It just happened that raising kids and my development into a person who had something to say ran along parallel tracks.

  19. Laura

    So, to address Mojo’s thoughts: I actually didn’t think you were going to say that! I don’t believe writing is easy for anyone (which is one reason I’ve gotten less critical as a reviewer over the years; every book represents at least one person’s blood, sweat, and tears and the fact that they have completed and published a book deserves a lot of props) but I do think your writing process is inherently more assertive/confident than mine is. You found your niche and what makes you happy I’m still working on that. For years I thought it was poetry, but I’m a pretty mediocre poet and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I think I’d have to give up my traditional mommy life and travel the world as a vagabond. Not worth it!

    As for your advice, my first reaction is to be affronted–which usually means there’s a bit of truth there that I don’t want to own up to. The part of it that is true is this: writing is a bit of a chore. I’m one of those types who is constantly wanting the Inspiration Bunny to appear and grant me fabulous material. I’m working on that. I’ve joined a writer’s group and gotten a job as a ghostwriter/technical writer and those two things are teaching me an awful lot about just putting the *&%# words on the *&%# paper. That said, whenever I do it, I’m glad and I feel (somewhat inexplicably) like a better person.

    The part, though, that I think you and I may be disconnecting on is this: for a lot of years I felt that I was commanded *not* to write. That I couldn’t let too much (or sometimes any) energy be put in that direction because it wasn’t fulfilling God’s will in my life. I don’t get the impression that you have ever felt that way. Maybe you have and I just don’t know about it; please don’t feel like I’m judging you! A big part of my vacillating over this last year (which has been the subject of most my posts) is me trying to figure out if I can allow myself to write without offending God. I think I can now. Four or five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that. So whether or not that was really what God meant in my life, I don’t know. But it was what I believed. Does that make sense?

  20. Laura

    Wm and Mahonri–thanks for weighing in on the subject! I very much appreciate your viewpoints. I admit to jealousy on my own part that my male counterparts get to be out in the world and interact with adults and travel and do work that doesn’t get undone by the end of the day. BUT, over the years as I’ve grown up a bit and watched my own husband and seen how other men navigate the world, that’s changed. I echo everything Lisa said. My hat is off too :)

    And Mahonri– your articulated very well the double standard that a lot of women face.

  21. Laura

    And Lisa, this: “It wasn’t that my kids got older and I had time. It was that I’d grown up, that I was fuller person. It just happened that raising kids and my development into a person who had something to say ran along parallel tracks.”

    Yes. Very much yes.

  22. Angela H.

    I’ve actually always felt a little lucky to be a woman writer. Perhaps I’m one of those that Wm resents? Although I don’t consider myself “upper-middle class” at all — I hail from the wrong side of the tracks in SLC and have always had a sense of not-belonging around wealthy people, but that’s my own hang up — my husband supports the family and I don’t *have* to work. When I got my MFA I knew I could parlay it into part time adjunct work, which is exactly what I’ve done, but the amount of money I make as a writer and adjunct isn’t enough to support a family; it’s just a helpful supplement. I’m very lucky not to feel that pressure to support.

    That’s one reason I’ve volunteered so much time on Irreantum, to be honest. I didn’t have to work, and it could be a side project that both gave me personal satisfaction and gave back a little to a community I cared about. Interestingly, I’ve never felt a shred of guilt over my work on Irreantum or my MFA, even though my kids were small during all those years.

    But I DO feel guilty about writing, still. Often. And here’s why (and I don’t think this is a woman/man thing). I never know if a piece of writing will ever see the light of day, or amount to anything. When I was working on Irreantum I knew it would go to print (even if only 250 copies were printed); when I got my MFA, I knew I was working toward an tangible degree that no one could stop me from obtaining but myself, and that once I graduated my employment prospects would be even more flexible; when I work an adjunct job, I know I can teach (which I enjoy) and get paid.

    But writing? I could spend years working almost every day on a novel that never gets published. As a matter of fact, for most of us working on novels, there’s a high likelihood that will be the case. And even though I do enjoy writing for the sake of it and feel more “myself” when I’m engaged in the creative process, it can be difficult to sacrifice family/church/work for a nebulous goal without at least a little bit of guilt.

    And I keep thinking “I’ll have more time when . . .”
    When I’m not helming Irreantum; when I’m not teaching; when my kids are older; when my husband doesn’t travel so much. But those things still don’t take the burden of guilt away when you spend time working on something that you can’t trot out and show to people as evidence that all your hard work is somehow justified. THAT is the sticking point. I love the Spanish proverb, “Take what you want, and then pay for it, says God.” If I want to write–really write–I’ve got to be willing to pay for it, even if my novel never amounts to anything, even if my kids ask, years later, what exactly I was doing in my office with the door closed for all those hours and I don’t have a book with my name on the spine to show them. It’s tough to face that, but necessary.

  23. Mahonri Stewart

    Laura,
    About God’s attitude towards the arts, writing, cultivating the mind, what does he write in one of the only revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that is addressed to a woman?

    “And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit. For he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to WRITING, and to learning much.”
    –Doctrine and Covenants 25: 7-8 (emphasis mine)

    Whatever ANYONE else has said, Mormons take THIS as a literal revelation. So there you go, from God’s own mouth. Emma wasn’t commanded to not write because she was a woman or a young mother. Rather, she was commanded to DO SO. To let her light shine. So, if we liken the scriptures unto ourselves…

  24. Angela H.

    Oh, and I agree with Lisa. I’ve read a lot of fiction over the years by people who want to be writers. The vast majority of the good stuff is written by people over the age of 35. You have plenty of time. Another reason it’s great to be a woman writer: you don’t have to sacrifice your prime writing years in order to be a mother.

  25. Angela H.

    Kay, one final thing. Although Moriah has a point about either wanting or not wanting to write, all sorts of writers (famous ones, talented ones) have to discipline themselves to do it. This idea that “real” writers are overcome by this writing desire that they just can’t fight, and that if you don’t have that overwhelming desire and instead must discipline yourself to sit at the keyboard you’re somehow a fraud? Baloney. Some writers are the “I must write or I will die,” kind of writer. Other writers are the “Thinking about writing sometimes makes me feel like I want to die, but then I do it and I’m glad,” kind of writer. Both are valid. Says the she of the second type.

  26. Moriah Jovan

    I won’t speak to the God’s will thing. That is your “space,” I guess is what I want to say, and I can respect that.

    Random musings ahoy:

    1. The Inspiration Bunny’s something that comes with practice, and even then it can go AWOL at the worst times, like….transitions. And menial scenes that still need to be there to advance the story. I spent four days and four drafts trying to figure out how to write a transition that was a total of 283 words. I have a bunch of those in my current WIP. It’s maddening. There’s no way to muse yourself out of corners like that.

    2. Some of my best writing has been under pressure/deadline and was “forced,” when the Muse was off having a good time elsewhere.

    3. My current WIP has been a WIP since 1991. I have TOSSED 200,000 words written since then, and I have 180,000 in the bag now (only 50,000 to go!), only ~2,500 of which survived the original concept. My 1991 heroine bears absolutely no resemblance to this one, except for her name. I have not had the maturity or life experience to write the story the way it needed to be written. And you know the funny thing is that I’ve always known that. It demanded more of me than I had to give it, more skill, more experience, more courage. It was bigger than I was. And considering how difficult I’m finding these transitions, it may still be.

    Which leads me to…

    4. Stretch, but don’t overreach. That way lies madness. And discouragement.

  27. Moriah Jovan

    Although Moriah has a point about either wanting or not wanting to write, all sorts of writers (famous ones, talented ones) have to discipline themselves to do it.

    True, but I didn’t think “Shut up, sit down, and do it” was either helpful or relevant. LOL

    It never is, which was why I wanted to explore “How BADLY do you want to sit down and do it?” Because that’s where it really begins and because the guilt thing is totally foreign to me, I get lost at that part of the conversation.

  28. Lisa Torcasso Downing

    I neglected to express my support for Laura’s interpretation that her Father in Heaven asked her not to write. He knows her and she knows inspiration when she experiences it. This, of course, does not translate into a commandment to which other women should adhere, nor is it a suggestion that a mother who writes is disobedient to God’s will. I know we all know that, but I just wanted to say it plainly.

  29. Mahonri Stewart

    Exactly, Lisa. By throwing in scripture there, I wasn’t trying to imply that all women were commanded to write either. But that there’s at least precedent in God telling a woman, “No, really, I want you to do this and so do you.” But then again, I’m a pretty heretical feminist as I’ve been told by some. ;)

  30. Laura

    Angela, yes!, the guilt! Every time I get to choose how to spend my time there’s a quick cost-benefit analysis and with the writing the benefit is always so nebulous. I know if I spend the afternoon canning peaches my family will have healthy, delicious food to eat. When I choose to volunteer in their classrooms, I’m spending time with them and getting to know their teachers (which always comes in handy!). When I spend my time cleaning the spirit in my home is calmer and there’s less fighting. When I choose to write, the only certain thing is that something else has to be given up to make it happen. It’s hard to commit to that.

    Lisa and Mahonri, thanks for the support on both sides of the debate :) I’m sort of second guessing my interpretation of the Spirit ten years ago, but as I’ve posted this and sort of mentally defended my choice to put writing on the back burner I kind of think maybe I interpreted it correctly. And, well, I think God handed me small training projects. All those ward skits, Primary programs, and the “generational memoir” I wrote for my dad’s side of family were all opportunities to learn about writing and go through the process. So maybe God didn’t want me to abandon writing all together but knew I needed time.

    Moriah, my writing really started to give out when I pregnant with my third child and had a WIP that I realized I was truly not wise enough to write (the rejections of that MS were ugly and it broke my heart). It was (and still is) so far beyond me. But, I love the story and I’m hoping that someday I’ll be enough for it. So I very much appreciate, “Stretch, but don’t overreach. That way lies madness. And discouragement.”

    And, honestly, asking me how BADLY I want to write is worth exploring. But, Angela, it’s good to know that there are a lot of writers who have to force themselves to do it.

  31. Laura

    And just to be a bit of a pot stirrer here, Doctrine and Covenants 25 exhorts Emma to do stuff for the Church. God didn’t tell her to become a novelist or write just for fun. And, for the record, if the Church ever asked me to do any writing for them I would jump at the chance! The piece of prophetic writing that moves me the most toward my own writing was Elder Utchdorf’s talk, “Happiness, Your Heritage”. He said, “Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children. . . The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”

  32. Mark Penny

    1-2: Late bloomers of the world, unite!

    5: You’ll laugh or gnash your teeth, but I often wish I was a stay-at-home dad so I could have more time and attention for writing.

    6: The tunnel has a bend in it. That’s why you can’t see the light.

    20. Yup. Many things are wasted on the young. Talent and energy need a little original wisdom to make them worth using.

    22. Income earned doesn’t get undone? And is the breadwinner frequently thanked for touching up the bank account on a steady basis? As I explained to my wife once when she was griping about being a slave, there are house slaves and field slaves. Same plantation, different jobs.

    24. Bowstring. A very close friend of mine had a nervous breakdown partly because she wasn’t fulfilling her creative side. Creativity became therapy when she recognized that being creative was essential to her emotional well-being. / I like what David Gilmour (Pink Floyd guitarist) said about his job: He was lucky to be in a big-selling band, but he’d be happy playing in bars, too, because he loves playing guitar.

  33. Kent Larsen

    I don’t want to be the pessimist here, or burst anyone’s bubbles, but, since I now have two adult children, I can’t help but point out that, actually, teenagers can require as much or more work than infants. Instead of mindless physical work, it is mental work.

    Which, if you think about it, simply means that there is really no optimal or even better time to choose to write (or take on any other career). You always have some kind of balancing act to do.

    So why should you ever let family responsibilities keep you from, little by little, pursuing your writing? If it is part of who you are or who you want to be, then you need to make it part of what you balance in life.

  34. Mahonri Stewart

    Laura,
    In the D&C 25, the expounding and exhorting seems to be directed to the Church, as well as the hymnal. But the “thy time shall be given” seems to indicated personal time, and that is the context for the following encouragement to write and learn. At least that’s how it reads to me.

  35. Jonathan Langford

    Coming late to the conversation (after a work project that ate up my life)…

    Lots of good thoughts here. Yes, I think we may sometimes we asked to put things on the altar for other good purposes (like focusing on children). And then it can be very disconcerting to reach a point where (after reconciling ourselves to what we felt was God’s will for us) that guidance seems to change.

    Yes, men do worry about things like this. I do. I’m still in the process of figuring out what role creative writing should play in my life. Partly for reasons related to the kinds of questions Moriah raised. Having written the one novel that (at the time) I felt I *had* to write, am I now wanting to write more stuff just because I like the idea of being a writer? Because I feel like it would be a waste not to develop a possible talent? Because it seems like the path of least resistance? Because I feel happier and more sane when I’m writing? (But couldn’t I find similar satisfaction doing something else?)

    A final thought: Growing up in my family, I remember thinking that the gift I most wished my mother would give to me was simply to be *happy*. There’s a whole set of personal and family circumstances behind that wish that aren’t terribly relevant to the conversation at hand, but it’s a takeaway worth holding onto. If writing is what makes you happy and fulfilled, and you *don’t* feel that it’s something you need to put on the altar anymore, then going ahead and doing it can be just as much for your family’s sake as giving it up was.

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