I heard a widely published travel writer state on National Public Radio that if people want to become writers, they first need to travel the world alone. I wonder what that means for mothers.

I recently heard a relatively famous travel writer say that people need to "get on their own" and "travel the world" to become a writer, or any other type of artist. My first thought was "So, I guess mothers are just screwed, huh?"

passport and ticket

And then I thought of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, of course, since she was talking about that very thing (women not having what they need to write, money and a "room of their own").

I got pretty angry at that writer dude, just dropping that out of nowhere, like it's nothing, from his position of obvious privilege, as if he wasn't basically telling a good portion of humanity that they'll never be writers.

Come on, man, not all of us can just take off to exotic countries with a journal and a kayak, alone, to live a life conducive to creativity. (Well, in his perspective.)

Some of us can hardly afford to leave our houses and have three little kids needing us, and our days are full of dishes and laundry and bickering and driving around and all kinds of totally uninteresting fodder.

So does that mean we can't write, can't create?

Does that mean we have nothing to say? Nothing worth reading, seeing, hearing?

Does one really have to leave what's known and comfortable to learn about the world, to find something interesting to say, to live?

And then as these things often go, I starting thinking about myself (always my favorite topic!). I thought about my own life, my own creativity. I thought about the woman in church who handed me a journal when I was 9 years old and told me to write every day, and how I did, for the next nine years. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I bled across those pages. I wept into them. That thing became my best friend over those years.

girl writing in journal or diary

I told that journal about the mean kids at school and how the boys were all too short and I told it about my acne. I told it about the dances and the fear and the agony of junior high, and how I missed my dad sometimes. I wrote about boys and a first kiss and driving and Peppermint Schnapps and heartbreak and betrayal and the poetry I read at night, from the book my uncle gave me.

But mostly, I wrote about me, my guts. I wrote it all with complete abandon. And I found my voice in those pages. I learned how to write by scrawling insane hormonal crap across page after page after page, hundreds of times.

I wrote through my first year of college and second and third, which I spent in Barcelona, Spain.

I wrote until I was 22. But then I had my first child at 22, and I didn't write for nine years.

I lost everything to the care and maintenance of that baby. Or maybe I gave it away. Or maybe I was just too tired. Whatever the reason, nothing but survival was in my scope. Through my second kid, it was the same.

The muse returned

But then, something happened after I had my third. I was 32 years old and I was settled. I was relaxed as a mother (read: totally resigned to the chaos). I had my third kid and parenting suddenly got easier. The noise didn't. The work didn't. The earth-shattering laundry pile didn't.

But my heart and mind and soul were clearer, freer, and I started having things to say again. All of a sudden, I wanted to write. I sat down at the computer and it came pouring out of me as if I had never stopped, as if nine years hadn't gone by in silence.

So here's what I want to say, travel writer dude: I don't buy your theory.

I don't think there's more life "out there" than there is right here.

Art is about looking at the world in a way that captures that which not everybody sees, but everybody knows, and feels, on a level they might not even be aware of.

A different life, maybe, but not a better, more compelling one. And the work that needs to be done for the creation of great art can be done anywhere. To me, art is about looking at the world in a way that captures that which not everybody sees, but everybody knows, and feels, on a level they might not even be aware of. When I look at a piece of art that takes my breath away, it's impossible for me to explain what or how or why it's so powerful. It speaks to something so fundamental in me, so real and vast and nebulous, but familiar. There it is. There I am. Right there. In that piece of art.

And I couldn't have drawn it better myself.

Such it is with words, when an author writes you better than you could write you, or writes that which you never knew was you, but it is. Clearly.

The first time I read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, I read about Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes and they were both me, completely. I wondered how he knew me. And I felt less alone, because he did.

And Hemingway, you know, was the one who said "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

And as far as I can tell, you can do that from anywhere, whether home or abroad, no matter how many kids are in your house. Yeah, it may take a few years of brewing, and you'll need some time to yourself, and that's not easy, but it's possible.

It's also why I'm writing these very words on a Thursday night, at 11:48pm, even though my toddler will be up at 6 a.m. just like she always is.

Good night.

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