I’m probably not the first person in the world to think that the reason a lot of the greatest writers and painters and artists were great was because they were married to women who took care of the household, made sure they were fed and watered and had all the supplies and free time they needed to ply their crafts, rubbed their shoulders — and other bits, of course — as needed to reduce tension and allow the great artist to get on with it. Those women were almost certainly underappreciated by their great men, but it’s entirely likely that those great men wouldn’t have been great without them or without someone — a mother, sister or housekeeper — to fill that role.
Any woman in the pantheon of greats pre-1950 was usually a nun or in possession of some family money, meaning they wrote either in relative secret and as they were able given their social obligations, or for the glory of god. And either way there was someone else doing the heavy lifting — not, as a rule, a man, it must be noted.
Like I said, I doubt if I’m breaking any new ground with this observation. Camille Paglia would have you believe that women’s minds simply don’t incline to greatness (just try reading Sexual Personae without wanting to land a punch on that smug little kisser of hers, I dare you); I say it’s more like they’ve been unable to give the fullness of their brains over to the task in quite the same way, with quite the same social licence, as men. (I ask you, how many great male artists have there been since women’s liberation?)
One of the reasons I’ve procrastinated on my work in progress is that I know that in order to do it well I have to go to a couple of places emotionally that I don’t want to revisit. I haven’t dealt with them so much as put a nice cloth over them and arranged them in a place where I don’t have to look at them, and if I do happen to look in that corner, I don’t really see them. It works for me that way. But to get to the nub of the idea behind the WIP, I have to expose the nerve and touch it a lot.
Yesterday was the first time I’d had time and headspace to write in a few weeks, and it was also the first time in my relaunch of the WIP that I needed to lift up a corner of that cloth and poke. And I got there, I really did. I was sitting here at the table, typing and crying, tears running down my face because it HURT to go there, and I was focused on trying to make that work for me when I noticed my furnace was making strange noises. It’s winter here, and while yesterday was a mild day, that is not going to last. My heart started pounding, my system shot full of adrenaline, on top of whatever else it had been pumping to help me write that scene. I spent half an hour or more on the phone on a Saturday afternoon trying to arrange for a repairman with someone who was more interested in selling me a maintenance package than dealing with my immediate concerns; and then another seven hours waiting for the repair guy (three hours until his window opened, and he arrived five minutes after his four-hour window closed). I shovelled the walk, made sure there was no ice; I cleared a space around the furnace so he could get to it; I made supper; kept an eye out the window because my place can be hard to find from the street and I knew I might have to flag him down (which I did); and for about an hour or two in there I actually wrote a few words but I’d lost the thread. I was feeling all the feels, that aching pit that I’d uncovered on purpose, alarm, adrenaline, stress, plus nausea and a splitting headache.
And there it was. Another good day of writing derailed by the concerns of running a household. I can’t imagine how people with kids manage, unless their spouses take care of it all for them. Which takes me back to my original thesis.
I need a wife, or someone to run my house, take care of problems as they arise, pay the bills, make sure I’m fed and watered and that my muscles aren’t getting too tight from sitting hunched over the keyboard for hours on end.
It really doesn’t pay well and the gratitude will be heartfelt but erratic. Anyone interested?