(Originally posted in my now-defunct blog, “Tonya’s Writing Cottage”, 03/17/12: as I resume my studies towards my MFA, I found this fitting to post again – on my new site)
Years ago, when I bought my tattered old copy of Peyton Place at a used bookstore, the photo of author Grace Metalious grabbed my attention. I remember staring at it for a long time. There she was in rolled-up jeans and Keds, seated at a desk and completely lost in some foreign and fascinating world she’d set up within her old Remington typewriter and the sheet of paper in the platen. She was a mother. She was comfortable and she was writing. It was the hell or high water look and I just loved it. It’s the way I wanted to be.
By then, I was a mom myself and I was working for a company that numbed my mind and utterly dimmed my creative state. I hadn’t really written anything creative for over eight years. I barely wrote in my journal back then. That was the driest spell of my life. I didn’t think I would write anymore. Until I saw her picture.
Sure, I’ve known of many successful women authors who’d raised their families and written many books. I’ve read many of their bios. But for some reason, such information didn’t gel with my own capabilities of such multi-tasking until I saw her freeze-framed visual.
I saw the possibility.
I could be a successful writer mom, too. So, I soon resumed writing in my journal. I began to write poetry again. Then I wrote short stories again, for the first time in ages.
And then, I stopped writing the poetry and short stories for a while. Again. The journaling stuck around, thankfully. But, I still had a family to tend to, a job, and I didn’t know how to concentrate on my writing with all that going on. Yes, The excuses. Being torn again between writing and life began to kill me again. Such despair wound up becoming the welcomed kick in the pants… come to think of it, the journaling helped quite a bit.
For a while, I let go of my iconic writer mom image.
Several years ago and not long after many of my beloved books were hauled into storage during a move, I located Metalious’s picture online. Seeing it again somehow prompted me to set up my very first blogspot about my love of writing (I can’t locate the poor thing now). Not feeling comfortable enough about joining the online community back then, I left it alone. But, I didn’t jump off my writing trail this time. I kept writing: more poems, one-paged ideas for novels. Then, I embarked on writing my very first novel – it’s over 325 pages and it’s in a drawer right now.
I’ve been writing ever since.
When I began this blog several years ago, I set her photo in my first post. It was the avatar of my personal Facebook page back then – for little over a year. (My high school friends understood!)
When I recently grabbed a bunch of my old books from storage, just to have near me… one was that copy of Peyton Place. Strangely enough, this time as I’d looked at her picture on the back cover in the same state of awe I had at first glance, I decided to find out who Grace Metalious was. I’d read a little bit about her on Wikipedia a long time ago, but by this time, I was very curious. After all, her photo’s been my mental inspiration over the years. I wanted to know stuff like:
- Just how and why did she write that book?
- How did she find the time?
- How did she really make the time?
- Did she really look this way when she wrote the book or was it publicity to sell the story of the little housewife that cranked out a bestselling novel?
Well, boy, did I learn some things…
According to a 2006 Vanity Fair article, Metalious was a high school graduate, wife of a high school teacher and principal, and she wasn’t known for her housekeeping or parenting skills… at all. Her ponytail, which I so love for myself, and her rolled-up jeans were actually her uniform. Her writing lair dubbed “It’ll Do” was in shambles and, according to the article, her children survived on “lettuce and tomato sandwiches”. They were often locked out of the house to fend for themselves as she wrote her book, until the neighbors knocked on the door!
I was surprised.
Just thinking about writing over the years, save time from my family, gave me utter guilt and paralysis. Still occasionally does. Yet, this woman did it… and it alone, pretty much. She sacrificed everything for her craft. Everything was hell or high water.
To each his own, of course, but as much as I’d love to lock everyone out of the house so I can write, I really can’t. I realize and I know my family knows that they’ve got it pretty good with me. In spite of my glass-eyed trance within my character’s lives, our house is in decent order, we all eat well, we spend time together and I’m still writing my book and my other pieces.
In my own blissful days lost in my work within my perpetual Levi’s and ponytail, I am a writer, MFA grad student, wife, and mom. I am that picture after all – with the husband and kids in the house.
Now… if I can only get my hands back on my old baby blue Smith-Corona.
BTW… what about you? Have you wanted to lock everyone out? Have ya done it?? Do tell… 🙂
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