Madeleine L'Engle on Writing as a Mother

"It was more difficult for me to justify time to write when my children were little than it was to find time to write. And that was false guilt. I felt it beacuse my work was not being published. I had five books published and then this long hiatus. I felt that my time at the typewriter was not justifiable. I think I was wrong. I think that was totally false guilt, because I was a writer because I was writing. But we tend to accept the images the world would put on us. And if you're not a published writer, you're not supposed to be a writer. Well, I know now that's not true."

"I had to make a decision about myself as a writer in the moment of total failure. On my fourtieth birthday I took a rejection of my book The Lost Innocence  as a sign from God to give up writing and learn to scrub floors or make piecrust that doesn't fall apart. And I covered up my typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation.

"I was walking up and down my little room—my kids were at school—weeping my head off. I was very, very unhappy. I stopped in my tracks because my subconscious mind was blip, blip, blipping up to my conscious mind the plot of a novel on failure. So I uncovered the typewriter. That night I wrote in my journal 'I have to write. That's the gift I've been given. And even if I am never, ever published again it is still what I have to do.' And I had to accept at that point that I might never, ever be published again because it had been a long time since I had gotten anything but rejection slips.

"I'm glad that I made that decision about myself as writer in the moment of utter darkness in the pits, because it's very real. It's easy to say you're a writer when your books are being published and making money, but I wasn't being published and I wasn't making any money. So it was a very real decision. and it's a decision we all have to make."

"I was wife and mother with my children at home during all of the normal periods that your children are home. In other words, I had two vocations. And two vocations are very difficult to juggle. They clash. But certainly it is possible. Many teachers who have a great vocation to teaching take the summers off and write. I think that would be kind of nice to have a whole summer off."

"For a woman who has chosen family as well as work, there's never time, and yet somehow time is given to us as time is given to the man who must sail a ship or chart the stars. For most writers it takes many manuscripts before enough royalties are coming in to pay for a roof over the head and bread on the table. Other jobs must often be found to take care of bread and butter. A certain amount of stubbornness—pig-headedness—is essential."

from Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life compiled by Carole F. Chase

Michelle Radford