Saturday, July 02, 2011

Take Courage Dear Writer

By Keith N Fisher

I watched a documentary on PBS the other day. It claimed women just aren’t recognized for their contributions as artists. The feminist program discussed the sacrifices women have made to answer their callings as artists. I noticed they didn’t discuss women writers.

A couple of years ago, Tristi Pinkston made a presentation at a Storymakers conference and talked about how hard it is for women to be a wife and mother and still find time to write. At one point, she asked me to share my feelings from a man’s point of view. I believe I said it’s hard for fathers, too. I think all artists and writers, women or men, struggle in that way.

While watching the program, I recognized the feelings they were trying to convey. During the past couple of years, I’ve undergone a forced renovation in my life. Through loss of job and personal upheaval things have not been easy. I’ve tried to lean on my family and my writing to get through, but I’ve also run headlong into other people’s expectations.

One of the artists in the program talked about her struggle with her now ex, husband. He felt he needed more from her, and was unwilling to share his needs with her art. They reached what she felt was a fair and equitable divorce, but he dragged her back into court. He sued for custody of the children and called her mothering into question. She struggles with validation and feels a need to prove herself to everyone by being the best artist she can be. I think there might be a lesson in that.

Another artist on the program talked about her membership in the Mormon Church. She has been blessed with a “forever family,” and they understand her quirks, but there were undertones of strain about the time she takes for her art.

One of the major points of the program was the claim that male artists are paid more, and get more recognition, than do women artists. That might be true for painters and sculptors, but there are more published women writers than men in the world. Especially, in the LDS market.

I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s struggle. The truth is, we all have demands on our time, but I’ve noticed something in my culture. You see good husbands are characterized by how much they help around the house in the hours after they return home from the workplace. The unstated expectation is, he should take over while Mom has a few hours for herself. That’s a little hard to do and write, too. I should point out that I fail miserably at that.

In our culture, men are expected to make a living. If their family must go without some luxuries, it better not be because they work at mastering a craft like art. After all, the odds of success are astronomical.

My point in writing about this subject is to call attention to the plight of artists everywhere. Men or women, Artists, teachers, ministers and the like are paid less and gain less respect than do other occupations. There is a reason the phrase “starving artist” was first coined. Of course almost everybody gets less than sports figures. Seems like our value system is messed up.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but I know several successful writers who still struggle. The best advice for everyone is keep trying to make it work. The Mormon artist I wrote about has sold so many pieces of art that she honestly can’t remember working on some of them. She takes gratification in her success. It does become worth it.

During the Whitney Awards this year we honored the writer of many works including two hymns in the LDS hymnbook the author is Susan Evans McCloud and my favorite hymn she wrote is Lord I Would Follow Thee. It was said by the presenter that she often had her little girl come to her and say, Mom, Stop typing.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week

1 comment:

Donna K. Weaver said...

One must also consider that frequently the mom/writer is also a breadwinner. She comes home from work having had to give the best hours of her day (energy, etc.) to her employer. Then she comes home and still has a full-time job that many in society consider her real. The house. ;) Really, it's the kids. And the husband. And somewhere with what's left over, she may hope to find time for herself, in her art. Gotta fill the vessel if you're going to have anything left to give anyone else.

It's not easy for the dad either. In a society where dad is expected to be "the" breadwinner, it must be tough on the self esteem when mom has to pick up the slack. I think there are so many working moms anymore that fewer of the younger generation really expect to have a stay-at-home mother.

There has to be balance.