Protecting our Space as Writers

It’s happened time and again over the years, others intruding on my boundaries. It happens repeatedly, determinedly, in a steady drip-drip that eventually causes me to let down my defences. A slow, stealthy creeping into my personal space, a disruption of carefully planned routines. It is the neighbour who comes by for a friendly cuppa too often, a box of Jaffa Cakes in tow. It is my mum or gran, making an over-abundance of steaming, hot curry, bringing us a portion and gently wrapping those threads of family life even tighter around me. It is the friend who asks haltingly, if I can possibly make time for her. It is the kindly man from the mosque or the distant uncle who says, you are missed, where have you been? Leave me be, I think, nothing is for free.  My ungratefulness seeps out of every pore, like a putrid gas, waiting to poison us all.

But oh, my stories, they yearn to get out, and they require solitude.  Solitude.  How I love that word.  My stories, you see, long not to be rushed and crave the time to simply be, to blossom into a wondrous narrative or wilt on their own terms.  And this life of mine, with its great swarms of loving people just waiting on the sidelines to be entertained, supported and loved in return, isn’t accommodating of this writing dream.

‘Are you coming tomorrow?’

‘No, I can’t.  I’m writing.’

‘You should really try and come.’

‘I have a project I’m working on and I’d really like to finish’.

‘How about you just pop in for an hour or so?’

© Jesus Solana
© Jesus Solana

The fault is also mine, of course.  Why am I unable to articulate my needs so that they are acknowledged? When I manage to create some space, how do I end up back at square one with a diary full of commitments I would rather not have, feeling loved but suffocated?  Perhaps it is my failing that friends and family can’t accept a ‘no’ graciously. Should I be clearer or more forceful? Can I enforce my boundaries without causing hurt to those I love? Can I love them selfishly on my terms or will my part-time love be ridiculed, like a half-baked meringue that refuses to live up to its promise?

Maybe this writer dream is too implausible for my family and friends to buy into.  Who makes money with writing nowadays (money being the only measure of success, of course)… and why would I flitter away my time without the certainty of a return on my investment?  Or perhaps they think I am not the writer type.  Maybe I need to shout my dream from the rooftops with Bollywood backing dancers behind me for them to take me seriously.  Or should I aspire to be more writerly, say, hang out at chic writer parties or in coffee-shops, or try to look more like a brooding, angst-filled loner? Do I need wilder hair or to be more emotional?

stick figureNow that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?  So this here, is my battle-cry.  RRRRROAAAARRRRRRR!! And this stick figure here, with the door closed, is the new me. I won’t feel guilty about it.  I will let you in when I can, but sometimes I won’t be able to because I don’t want to risk losing the magic in this wonderful scene I am writing.  Please don’t take it personally.  I love you very much, I really do, but this part of me has to be private.  It needs time to breathe.  My writing is a priority, you see, and no, it isn’t a hobby.  It’s much more than that.  I might tell you about how it feels one day.  I will support you to achieve your dreams in any way I can, so please, if you love me, just take a little step back and respect what it takes to achieve mine.

‘I don’t think people should have boundaries put on them, by themselves or society or another gender, because it’s our birthright to experience life in whatever way we feel best suits us.’ Hilary Swank

‘Once you label me you negate me.’ Soren Kierkegaard

15 thoughts on “Protecting our Space as Writers

  1. Great post, Nilu. Insightful. Gives voice to that thing we all struggle with. To some, solitude is heaven, to others, a prison. They won’t ever know. I for one, have given up trying to explain it. But maybe I just need to roar more. :)

    “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.”
    – Whitman

  2. I understand completely – and you just roar away! It’s better than the scream I wanted to do when my mum interrupted my writing yet again. I’ll join my roar to yours! :-)

  3. Every word in this post resonates with me. The bit of dialogue is so true to (my) life, it’s eerie.

    I live with this guilt every day: “Leave me be… My ungratefulness seeps out of every pore, like a putrid gas, waiting to poison us all.”

    “Who makes money with writing nowadays (money being the only measure of success, of course)… and why would I flitter away my time without the certainty of a return on my investment?” It is good to know there are people who get it, thanks for this post.

    1. I am so glad you understand. I felt both guilty and empowered writing it. The love of family and friends is wonderful but brings expectations with it I guess. Thanks too for following. I must have been reading yours just as you were reading mine :).

  4. A wonderful evocative piece. Most women, and perhaps many men will resonate with your words. It is about self esteem, self confidence; and I was thinking initially, surely culture bound. But no, I don’t think it is – it is universal – part of the dilemma of being both separate from the world, yet instrinsically tied to it by our very natures. When I was younger and juggling a job, a farm and two small daughters, I tried to put aside thirty minutes a day for writing. It worked because I wrote; but didn’t because the time was too short and I was often exhausted. The farm and job are no more and the children are grown – but still it is sometimes hard to do the things (like writing) that feed who I am. We are what we are, not what we do. Thanks for sharing.x

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I’ve often wondered too if it’s a cultural or even gender thing. But you are right, self vs the other/s is an everyman problem. Your comment about being separate from yet tied to the world was really helpful for me to read. I sometimes wonder what I did with all the time I had when I was younger. I guess life has a knack of carrying us along and it is up to us to be steadfast and find pockets of time to do what makes us feel alive and whole. Thanks for reading. You are remarkable to have written with young kids, a job and a farm :)

  5. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it’s about not being taken seriously as a “real writer” until I’m making money at it. The people I talk to face to face on a regular basis don’t take me seriously as a writer, and won’t, until I am published and paid. People who aren’t writers don’t understand what it means to be a writer. They even have the nerve to get angry when they try to interrupt a writing spree and are tuned out. I have very little time every day to dedicate to writing, but even that precious time is encroached upon without a second thought. Anyway, thanks for writing this. I sincerely hope family and friends of writers read this and keep it in mind.

    1. Hi Jess, thanks for commenting. I hear you and often feel the same way. I guess we need to be clear about our measures of success as a balance to theirs. Eg, I feel successful if I carve out 20 mins for creative writing a day. Sometimes even 140 characters of a #FridayPhrase means the world because it is a little drop of the real me – not mummy, or wife, or daughter, or friend – just me without any responsibilities or obligations just to myself. We’ll write our way through Nano looking like sleepless wrecks but feeling like queens :)

  6. Writing is a passion and writer’s purpose is driven by the passion one possesses. Writer’s job is not an easy and cozy one, as other’s sees it…It is tough job, needs lot of thinking and hard work to produce a good piece of story…We all have our purpose and passion, but it gets eclipsed by the external pressure and other’s compulsions, the daily grid…Writing is wonderful but Solitude becomes an integral part of a writer’s life…Lovely post!!!

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