Sunday, August 7, 2011

Writing Under Difficulties

Have you ever written under great difficulties?

I sure have. Sometimes I liken the life of a writer to that of a mailman. "Come rain, come snow, come hail or
Laptop of the 1890's!
sleet, the postman always delivers." And authors do, too. Many writers I know have endured terrible difficulties under which they had to press on. Last year at this time was such a time for me during the last days of my step-father's life I was writing my novel, The Shadow Catcher's Daughter. After Dad died I had 4 weeks remaining to complete it. My publisher graciously allowed me 2 extra weeks. And by the grace of God I completed it. There have been other difficulties I have worked through (health issues, family responsibilities, personal challenges, etc.) as many of you have. One thing I have determined — writing is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some excerpts from past times that testify to this fact. I hope you enjoy.

Writing Under Difficulties
From The Author, Volume 1, The Writer Pub. Co., 1889

In a recent Belford's Magazine, Virginia Sharpe Patterson writes feelingly on the "Disadvantages of Women Writers." The special disadvantages that she mentions are the time and the place. As a usual thing, the male author, when the spirit moves him to write, retires to his study, where no one is allowed to interrupt him during the hours of work, and where he has a desk fitted up with all the labor-saving devices so temptingly set forth by the contributors to The Wrter. The female author, on the other hand, when seized by an inspiration, cannot seclude herself alone with her books and her rolling-top desk. It is more than likely that she is in the kitchen baking bread, which cannot be left to take care of itself. With doughy hands she takes the pencil, happily left by the grocer's clerk, and in a stolen moment indites a sonnet on the unstamped side of a paper bag; or she is in the nursery, rocking the cradle with her foot and trying to compose her thoughts and amuse the children, while an old atlas on her knee serves her as a desk. Even the more fortunate woman, one who does not have to bake the bread or guard the nursery, has interruptions that never come to the man. She may even have a room to write in and every convenience around her, but she cannot deny herself to the cook who has some important household question to ask, or to the maid who is going to the market, and comes to her for final instructions. One would think that the spinster might be spared the interruptions so annoying to the mother of a family, yet even she may have a little niece who makes constant and seemingly unavoidable demands upon her attention.

There have been men, however, who have written under disadvantageous circumstances. I do not speak of war correspondents, who have written columns of description with a drumhead for a desk, and the bullets flying past their ears, for they are journalists, and journalists are expected to accomplish miracles. But books have been written, and great books, too, under any but favorable circumstances. Johnson wrote "Rasselas" with his mother's body lying in the house, in order to raise money to defray the funeral expenses. Goldsmith wrote his plays with the sheriff's officer knocking at his door — a serious interruption to one's thoughts, I should say. Bunyan wrote his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress " in prison, where he may have had quiet enough, but must also have had jarring interruptions of various kinds, and a lack of writing materials. If we read the biographies of most of the writers of the eighteenth and earlier centuries, we will find they did their best work under the most unfavorable circumstances. It is only in the nineteenth century that authors have had uninterrupted hours for work, like other business men, and have had such advantages as may arise from the use of typewriting machines, stenographers, stylographic pens, various colored inks, pigeon-holed desks, and writing-pads. —" The Lounger" in The Critic.

Dawn O'Hara, The Girl Who Laughed, 1918 


  1. Hi Shelly - I totally relate to this! Writing with small children in the house. Even if I did settle them with a project and escaped to my office to write - the guilt that I was not the sole entertainment for my children and that I was - in some way - denying them of attention to "write" was very hampering. Still, I raised two very intelligent, independent, self-sufficient children, serving the Lord, and walking as contributing, responsible, productive adults. My daughter is a writer, in fact. Now - I can lock myself away. But, work responsibilities and being onsite for a job is what hampers me most. Would love to just study and write without leaving sanctuary!
    Ah . . . well . . .
    Miss Kathy

  2. This is funny! I think the biggest obstacle to overcome back then would be wearing all the clothes women had to wear! We get to write in our pjs if we want! Seriously, with all our modern conveniences I wonder if we can ever complain about our writing circumstances.
    Great post.

  3. This makes me so thankful for this season of relative "uninterruptedness." I've been making a conscious effort daily to express my thanks for the work that was accomplished, and upon rising, to thank God for the writing day stretching before me. I can't know when my writing cave will be invaded by persistent outside demands. Change is inevitable!

  4. I hear you, Jan! What encumbrances they had from clothing to tools. We are so very spoiled! And I love writing in my PJs!

  5. Ah, sanctuary. Well put, Miss Kathy! Mother guilt is certainly one of those issues we deal with when it comes to spending time alone, but as it appears, your children were able to see by your example the value of independence (in balance) and God-dependence. That's wonderful that your daughter is also a writer! But even with out young children to care for there are so many things pulling at us. I, too, would love to just study and write - sanctuary, indeed!

  6. Lori, your example of giving thanks both before and after writing is a wonderful reminder.

    How is it that even when we enter our cave there are still so many demands calling out to us. Echoes in the distance. But I am glad for you and for myself that we are enjoying a time in our lives where outside demands are less and writing is more, and the echoes fewer.


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