Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing

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This is the title of Chapter Ten of one the most delightful and inspiring books I have ever read … If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland.  I heard about it on Guy Kawasaki’s Blog and immediately bought it.  I am a sucker for books on writing since I am a voracious reader, and love to write as well.  It was written in 1938, but you would never know it by what she writes …

“…in fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory.  They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves.  Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling.  The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splended-because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them!”

But inwardly women know that something is wrong (footnote 6)”

(footnote 6) Menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin against the Holy Ghost

(You have to love her footnote!)

She goes on to say …

“They sense that if you are always doing something for others , like a servant or a nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good.  You make them physically more comfortable.  But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all.  For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself.  And how to be something yourself?  Only by working hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important.”

“…And that is why I would say to the worn and hectored mothers in the class who longed to write and could not find a minute for it:

‘If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!” you would be surprised how they would respect you.  They would probably all become playwrights.’ ”

-pgs 99-100

4 Responses to “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing”

  1. Julie says:

    I LOVE Brenda Ueland’s book. It’s my favorite book on writing. Timeless wisdom that cuts through the bullcrap about how Mothers should be. Thank you for reminding me that Brenda’s book is awaiting…

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  3. Laura says:

    I found your site while researching a handout for a writing class. As the mother of a large family and a writer, I couldn’t agree more with Brenda Ueland! I am looking forward to buying her book and reading the whole thing, but especially this chapter.

  4. Edie says:

    Wow…How true is this! Women can get so sucked in to doing things for others that they totally neglect themselves. And you are right… Footnote 6 is a winner!