Jenny's Library

Reading Russ: Part 2

Posted on: April 15, 2013

Chapter 1: Prohibitions (continued)

Before I move onto chapters 2 and 3 of How to Suppress Women’s Writing, which are both read and waiting to be talked about, I wanted to say one more thing about time constraints and creative work – more specifically this time about gender.

I have noticed that a great many of the female writers I know often feel a need to justify their existence. The space they take up, the resources they use, and most especialy the free time they enjoy. (Or, sometimes, don’t enjoy because they don’t feel entitled to it.)

This is not always a bad thing, depending on the person, situation, etc. For example, I think most middle class Americans like myself could do with a bit more perspective with regards to the resources we use, and that’s just to start. It is also tempting at times to mess around on the internet and call it research. Instead of getting off of the internet and actually, you know, writing. Discipline is not to be sneered at, after of a sculpture of a woman thinking

Yet, creative work often requires a certain amount of down time. Time spent reading or walking or watching TV or showering. Time spent thinking – or not thinking – in order to work through mental problems and come at things with energy and a new perspective. Time spent experimenting also – trying new things, both in art and life. So this feeling that one has not earned leisure time can also be very destructive, creatively. It can encourage doubt and stifle the play that goes hand in hand with the hard work of making art.

There is also that same slipperly slope that I talked about previously, the idea that if one cannot even afford the time to read, one has not earned the right to be heard. I imagine this dynamic changes a bit for writers that get paid for their work, but I can’t help but think that it still feeds into other self doubts, such as the idea that one is not worthy of more pay or praise than one already gets – and possibly not even that.

Even then it might not be worth noting, except that it does seem to be mostly female writers that I hear making these kinds of comments. To be fair, this may simply have to do with who is on my feed and chat lists, and the nature of our relationships. Also, the last thing I want to do is set up more expectations or judgements, or presume to know what’s best for other people, or dissmiss frustrations. Still, somehow I doubt George R. R. Martin ever felt the need to justify his leisure time quite as often as the female writers I know do. And I can promise you all that I value your words much more than his.

So, from one artist to another (whether your art be beading, knitting, fanfiction, poetry, Hugo winning novels or anything else) do me a favor and remember the importance of leisure time next the time you feel guilty for spending some time to rest or play.

(originally published at:


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