The Question That Must Not Be Asked.

posted in: Rant 16
The only thing worse that writing about your precious, precious writing is including a black and white picture of yourself looking directly into the camera. Let's get gross.
The only thing worse that writing about your precious, precious writing is including a black and white picture of yourself looking directly into the camera. Let’s get gross.

It wasn’t many moons ago, but like, a handful of moons ago, that a person said to me, “Oh, sure, Mary, you have time to blog but not time to [ACTION.]” He wanted something from me, see, and felt my lack of attention to the matter was inexcusable in light of the fact that I had posted blog entries throughout the week. If I had time to write about meeting Tim Gunn, well, clearly I had loads of time.

This person happened to be miserable that day for reasons that had nothing to do with me, so I coughed loudly and made the conversation stop in as loving a manner as I could. When I lay down at the end of the night, though, my jaw was still clenched.

I don’t get furious often. I’m not saying it never happens — if you care about stuff, you’re bound to holler at some point — but I know the Wrathful Buddha is not a good look for me. Besides, most of the time I’m too bewildered by everything to be angry. I’ve been wrong so many times in my life, even as it’s happening, furious feels like something I’m going to regret later. I’ve also spent time around a few perpetually angry people over the years. Those people are not good role models. Don’t get mad, get perspective.

Fury became me, though, when the thought was floated that my blog should take dead last in the race to Get Everything Done And Done Well. When it has to, and sometimes it has to, PaperGirl warms the bench. Contracts are contracts, contracts have deadlines that must be at least broadly observed, and I need to eat. (At present, PaperGirl does not put food on the table; strange, as it is arguably my most valuable asset.) But having a meaningful life means more than being a good soldier.

This frustrating conversation from several months ago came up again because I felt the same sentiment was dangerously close to being on the lips of someone else the other day. The “Well, you have time to blog” argument was almost launched. When it wasn’t, I was relieved. I didn’t feel like getting furious; I had just combed my hair.

I will always prioritize writing. Always. If I’m not writing here, I’m in my journals. If I’m not in my journals, I’m reading, the other half of writing. There’s time every day for one part of this endless, bizarre, oft-fruitless, occasionally ecstatic process of mine and I refuse to be told there isn’t. I can’t help it. I actually can’t. Without the writing thing in my life, I feel nothing short of impoverished. And when I feel like that, well, no one gets anything at all — not on time, not late, not anything.

Do I sound defensive? I am. I am defending myself. I’m like, at the castle, shooting arrows from the parapet. The big cauldrons of treacle come next. Stand back or be liquified.

Every so often, my eyeballs pop open when my head is on the pillow: am I missing everything good? Did I wind up in the circus when I’m supposed to be on the farm? Is there still time to chuck everything and sink the rest of my days into writing, just writing? But what a question. Who do I think I am? Am I a victim of circumstance? Which set of circumstances? Both my parents are aspiring novelists, you know: my beloved mother is actively writing her commercially-viable first novel; my estranged father is likely writing his totally non-commercially viable nineteenth. I don’t want to write a novel; I want to write whatever PaperGirl is when she turns into a book. I want time to figure out what that looks like, which will be the first arduous part of making it all come true.

When I’m in bed, thinking all this, my eyeballs start darting around like crazy. The only thing to do at midnight when troubling conversations linger or I fear the level of hubris that must be in place to consider whether one’s life is being misspent, is to snuggle closer to Yuri and stick my face between his shoulderblades if he’s sleeping on his side. We have designated that part of his body “the face place” because my face fits perfectly there, thank goodness.

It’s got to fit somewhere.

16 Responses

  1. Janet Szabo
    | Reply

    I hope you never stop writing. Your blog is on my must-read list. I also enjoy watching you on Love of Quilting. I am a new quilter and your perspective has been invaluable to me. Thank you.

    • Alicia Key
      | Reply

      Me, too, Janet Szabo, me too!

  2. Melissa Trujillo
    | Reply

    Mary, follow your gut! No other human being as the right to dictate how one ‘should’ spend their time living their life. I think you ROCK! I’m hoping I land on the farm someday myself…the circus gets old after awhile. 🙂

  3. Liz Flaherty
    | Reply

    In that picture, you look very much like your “beloved mother,” a Good Thing!

  4. Elaine
    | Reply

    Stay true to yourself.

  5. Corinne
    | Reply

    I, too, hope you never stop writing. What a gift you have.

  6. Kristy Daum
    | Reply

    I heard a similar thing when it came to quilting. When I did not attend certain events, people started saying…well, it’s because she is quilting all the time, and doing guild things. Things were easier before she was quilting.

    Yeah, they might have been easier FOR THEM; but they were also boring. Quilting is my passion and while it’s taken me gawd-knows how many years to find it, I’m not letting it go.

    Thanks for sharing this truly personal and poetic part of yourself.

  7. HelenMarie
    | Reply

    Never miss an entry…you are so real! Thank you!

  8. RM
    | Reply

    do what makes you feel whole and tell the naysayers to stick it. i’ve learned that writing happens when i’m inspired and forcing myself to do it when what i really want is to be in my studio behind my sewing machine with lots of fabric or on the sofa with skeins of yarn and crochet hooks or needle and floss feels like nothing less than the literary equivalent of faking it. i’ve had people question why i’ve been crafting instead of finishing my novel many times and the truth of the matter is that i’m just not feeling the novel right now. and that’s okay. as long as i’m doing something – every single day – that feeds my creative soul, i’m in a good place. sounds like you’ve found that for yourself, too.

    love the blog, love the quilty videos, love seeing you on f&p. keep doing what makes you happy.

  9. Colleen
    | Reply

    We as creative independent women should never be questioned on our time management skills or feel guilty for what we do outside our contracted work life. I too feel the unspoken accusations at times despite the fact I work like a dog at my job. It’s hard to remember sometimes that other people’s anger and condemnation comes from a place of their own insecurity and not something lacking in me. I remember my happy place and feel sad they don’t seem to have one. I am not a computerized robot who can turn it off and on at will.

  10. Vinny
    | Reply

    “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the every depths of you heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all; ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night; must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a stong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

    I’m pretty sure you’ve read that before. And I’m pretty sure I know how you answered. Rock on.

  11. American Homestead
    | Reply

    Ummm ~ I hate to say it but what you need to do at midnight, when you are troubled, is write about it… just sayin’.

  12. Jody
    | Reply

    Never stop writing.
    You don’t know the ways your writing blesses others.
    It may have even saved the life of someone insignificant but grateful.

  13. Andres
    | Reply

    Isn’t it great when others know how to better manage your life than you do?

  14. Linda P
    | Reply

    I suppose it could be worse, like on top of that – “What’s for dinner and when will it be ready?” No one can make you feel lousy without your permission!
    To thine own self be true, and continue to do what makes your heart sing!

  15. Dianne
    | Reply

    I’m glad you prioritize your writing. The world is a much better place for it Di

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