I steal the time I need to write.

Maybe you do too.

Maybe you have young kids and a house to run and a job and writing has to happen in the fringe hours.

If that’s the case, maybe this quote from Madeleine L’Engle will comfort you as much as it does me. Because on her fortieth birthday the book she is likely the most famous for, A Wrinkle in Time, was rejected. Again.

I was always tired.

So was Hugh. During the decade between thirty and forty, most couples are raising small children, and we were no exception. Hugh was struggling to support his growing family in the strange world outside the theatre. And there was I, absolutely stuck in bucology, with the washing machine freezing at least once a week, the kitchen never above 55 degrees when the wind blew from the northwest, not able to write until after my little ones were in bed, by which time I was so tired that I often quite literally fell asleep with my head on the typewriter.

The various pressures of twentieth-century living have made it almost impossible for the young mother with pre-school children to have any solitude.

I needed a desert island, and time to write.

Well, somehow or other, like a lot of other women who have quite deliberately and happily chosen to be mothers, and work at another vocation as well, I did manage to get a lot of writing done. But during that decade when I was in my thirties, I couldn’t sell anything.

All during my thirties I went through spasms of guilt because I spent so much time writing, because I wasn’t like a good New England housewife and mother. When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn’t make decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everybody wore streaky pink underwear. And with all the hours I spent writing, I was still not pulling my own weight financially.

So the rejection on my fortieth birthday seemed an unmistakeable command: Stop this foolishness and learn to make cherry pie.

I covered the typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation. Then I walked around and around the room, bawling my head off. I was totally and utterly miserable.

Suddenly, I stopped, because I realized what my subconscious mind was doing while I was sobbing: my subconscious mind was busy working out a novel about failure.

I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that’s what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the after. I didn’t matter how small or inadequate my talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.

Excerpted from Madeleine L’Engle’s incredibly beautiful and highly recommended memoir, A Circle of Quiet.

Be encouraged, writers. You are not alone in your exhausted, stolen, writing moments.

Write on.


I’m spending 31 days writing about how to write your story.
It’s part of the 31 Days Challenge hosted by the Nester.
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