Monday, May 16, 2011

The invisible woman

For the last two years, I've felt invisible.  I'm a stay-at-home mom in the midwest, and it seems like people walk right through me sometimes.  The man who nearly runs over me and my kids at the crosswalk.  The lady who butts in front of me to check out at the library.  But not just them, I've treated myself like a welcome mat, keeping my eyes down as I checked out at the store, mumbling hellos to kind strangers.  I'm not sure when this happened  I use to be bombastic and passionate.

It felt like I was disappearing into the roles of wife and mother.  Always thinking of someone else, spending every spare dime on the kids, waiting on my husband's schedule to make plans, and doing laundry every waking moment.  There was no time for me.  In February, I confided to my mother-in-law that I felt invisible.

Deciding to get serious about writing was about more than finishing or publishing a novel, it was finding a way back to me.  Writing was my time, and I soon realized how precious it was.  Without it, I faded back into the drudgeries of the day to day.  As I wrote more frequently, I found myself chatting with the check-out lady, making eye contact with that rude lady trying to cut me in line, and I'm more likely to yell at that guy speeding through the light (even if he can't hear me).  My coffee shop knows me as that writer who comes in, not as James' mom or Josh's wife.  While I was out with my mother at an art show, an artist asked if I also was painter like my mom, and I said, "No, I'm a writer."  The artist thought it was very cool, and secretly, so did I.

I'm a writer.  My words are mine.  I've created worlds and people.  I can share that with whomever I choose.  Someday maybe even the world.  My mother-in-law called last week and said, "I have something to tell you.  You're not invisible anymore."

No, I'm not, and I feel the difference.

Don't let anyone tell you writing isn't important or bully you to worry about marketability or publishing.  Don't be torn down by people in your life who don't understand why you want to write.  Make it your priority, because ultimately writing is yours.  No matter how many people read it, you are the writer alone.  It's not an imposition on anyone to give time to yourself.

Mindy over at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire recently posted about an excellent book, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  I haven't read the book in ages, but the quote Mindy included really spoke to the guilt I heaped on myself for wanting to write:
“I've seen women work long, long hours at jobs they despise in order to buy very expensive items for their houses, mates, or children, and putting their considerable talents on the back burner. I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know, it's a funny thing about house cleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow overresponsibility (or overrespectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, rifts, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

There are always going to be chores and responsibilities and an endless stream of laundry to get lost in, but take care not to turn invisible.  It's more than okay to want something for yourself.  It's normal.  It's healthy.  It's necessary.


  1. I love this post! Beautiful sentiment.

  2. This is why I <3 you Gen!! Really needed this today. Going to turn off the "Mr. Cellophane song". ((hugs))

  3. Amen to all of this.

    Says the token dude on your blog.

  4. Oooohh thanks. I needed that. This right here: "She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only." It's a gift.

  5. I'm considering printing it out and taping it to my vacuum, washing machine, refrigerator, and mop!

  6. "Deciding to get serious about writing was about more than finishing or publishing a novel, it was finding a way back to me"

    You couldn't have said it anymore perfectly than that... that is EXACTLy how I feel.. writing again makes me feel more like myself than I have in a very long time.

    Wonderful post, and congratulations on finding your agent :)

  7. I'm new around here and came on just the right day. This is something I have struggled with since getting married and having kids. I tell my husband "I just want something for me" all the time. And it really is my writing. I love this line: "It's not an imposition on anyone to give time to yourself." I'm deciding not to be invisible any more, too.

    Thanks for a beautiful post.

  8. This is such a fantastic post Gen and I loved your story of victory. I wish years of writing ecstacy for you

  9. I agree, great post. It's like I've been telling myself, watching TV at the end of a very long day may help take the edge off of being a mother/academic but it doesn't satisfy anything deeper.
    Since I started writing fiction in the evenings I've felt so excited about claiming more ME time. My husband's great but I do think some men like to believe there will definitely be a payoff at some point. But nothing is certain in the publishing world!

  10. thank you! I've been getting back to writing lately, and have also been feeling more alive and less invisible. it takes some discipline but it is so rewarding for me!

  11. I came across your blog today and found this old post. I couldn't help but comment on it. Your sentiments echo my feelings. I have so many fears of becoming invisible that I stop myself from doing the things that matter most. Thank you for this heartfelt post. It is nice to hear someone else out there feels the same way and can change.