To write, you gotta have balls.
And to write a lot, and thusly write well, you gotta have really big ones; balls so preposterously enormous they virtually drag on the ground.
You gotta have balls big enough to say, “I’m gonna put my damned life on hold, and the lives of those around me, and do little more than write.”
You need balls to say this kind of thing. Of course, I’m talking about metaphoric balls, fictitious testicles; the kind that, if you have them, mean you have heart. Or guts. Or sheer determination. Or even, a reckless nerve of sorts, the kind that leads you to chase the bull out of the field; or to punch that bad guy right in the face; to leap before you look, to do something with little regard for the consequences. In short, balls.
I would argue that to write, you gotta have all these things – heart, guts, and determination. And yeah, you need the short-sightedness to jump in head first and worry about the consequences later.
Writing itself is pretty simple; its requirements are few. A clear head, a device to write with (a laptop in my case), and time to think.
And I see that’s why female writers have historically been in short supply; even today women face tremendous challenges in writing, or heck, really doing anything in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Not always for a lack (of fictitious) balls; but for other reasons. Like time to think. Time to develop their craft.
Good ol’ Virginia Woolf advocated for a room of one’s own and a comfortable trust fund; but she did not anticipate (in the Victorian ages of servants and cooks) that today’s woman must really do everything. Herself.
The modern woman with a family or a career (or both, shudder, together) – is under tremendous pressure. You work all day, and then you walk in the door, and honestly, honey, things haven’t changed all that much. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, somebody’s gotta do it. And sure, your spouse or partner might step in, or you might be able to hire someone, but the organizing and scheduling remains your own.
And if you have children, you are pulled in a million little pieces throughout the day, trying to put out fires and take care of everyone else. By the time your allocated writing block comes along, you have nothing left. You’ve given it all away.
I think of “Gone with the Wind”, where Mrs. Tarleton, a renowned horse breeder and rider, spends her days with her mare saddled and waiting while she herself goes about overseeing the plantation, directing servants and family members all while wearing her riding habit. For, she originally intended to go riding.
But her day, and many before it, got away from her. She was busy taking care of others, and lost the opportunity to put herself first.
And that’s a damned shame.
So let’s go back to the notion of balls; phantom testicles so gigantic they require your pants to be three sizes larger, or you simply don’t wear pants at all and hide them under a skirt.
If Mrs. Tarleton had enormous balls (I’m not saying she didn’t have any, just that they weren’t big enough) she would’ve told all the servants and family members to take a flying leap, that they had care of themselves, for at that very minute she was going out riding. And they could deal with life without her for a while.
For a woman to truly excel in anything (writing, the Arts, hockey, dentistry – whatever) balls are the underlying issue. Or a lack thereof. Or having balls enough to say screw all you people, I’m doing the things I want to do (in the writer’s case, shutting the door and actually writing) while the rest of the world carries on without me.
And for many women, it can be hard to put themselves first; the juggling acts of life creep in, and time is swept away as you spend your day at the kitchen sink with a half-written story floating around in your head. And before you know it, that story’s gone, floated away in the ether.
I guess it really does come down to having big enough balls.
This essay was written with a sleeping toddler on my lap after I got into a fight with my husband over his need to step up around the house so I could get some writing done. So, yeah, it’s real. But what carries me through is the fact that I have fucking huge balls.
In case you missed it, we have Balls & Co right here (aka our thoughts on women and writing fiction)
Kelley Armstrong’s Advice for Writers on Twisted Sister
And we invite you to send us your best, your worst, your weird, and don’t worry honey, we’ll all stumble through it together.