image courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapitol.com
I believe in the power of the written word, and I believe in the power of women. This is why I blog, this is why I write essays, this is why I teach English, and this is why in March of 2011 I started See Jane Write, a networking group for women writers in my town of Birmingham, Alabama.
On Monday a few of the women from the group and I got together for lunch at a local Thai restaurant. The food was good, but the conversation was even better. After a brief talk about politics (there’s always plenty to discuss in that arena here in Birmingham) we got down to business – discussing the writing life.
Being a writer is hard. Being an artist of any kind is difficult in part because there’s such little respect for these professions. In fact, they aren’t even seen as professions by some, but simply considered hobbies. For many of the women at the table when we told our families we wanted to be writers we were told, “OK, but you need to get a real job too.”
Being a woman writer can be even harder. The byline gender gap has been well documented by groups like VIDA. Women's voices are still underrepresented in the media and literary arts. And this is another reason I founded See Jane Write. I believe that women who dare to express themselves, to tell their stories, and to share the stories of others through the written word need a strong support system. They need someone to encourage them and to hold them accountable.
Because the writing life can be so difficult it can be easy to get off track, to go weeks, months, or even years without writing. Lately, I have really been struggling with feeling like a real writer because now that I’m an English teacher and no longer a full-time journalist I’m not being paid for my written words. But one published author at the table said something that really stuck with me. She said something that reminded me not to put a price on my art in that way.
The true measure of whether or not you’re a writer is simple: Are you writing more than you’re not? In other words, you may not write every single day, but you need to write most days. All relationships, even your relationship with writing, need quality time. Are you truly showing your love for writing or just offering lip service? I, for one, am ready to give it my all.