Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tillie Olsen

Myfanwy reported on her blog the death of Tillie Olsen, an amazing woman writer who, even at age 94, died before her time.

What I learned from her is this: the stoies won't write themselves, and there's no excuse not to sit down and write them.

But Olsen's theme - and her fear - was silence, the dream only dreamed. Olsen knew this firsthand. After beginning a novel in the 1930s about a migrant family, her writing career was delayed 20 years for sheer lack of time. She never stopped regretting all the stories never told.
"Well, I'm going to be one of those unhappy people who dies with the sense of what never got written, or never got finished," she said.

Why do I want to devote two hours a day to writing this year? Why is it a resolution? Because I want to be able to say when I died that I DID write, that I said what I needed to, and that nothing has been left unfinished. Easier said than done. Olsen had children to raise, a house to keep.

I have to believe that there is a reason I'm not married. A reason I don't have children. Is that reason because I wouldn't be able to handle both with writing? Is my contribution destined to be greater in the writing world than with offspring? If so, I'd better not waste my time watching tv and doing other passive activities. Sacrifices are being made...I need to contribute.


Myfanwy Collins said...

Have you read any Tillie Olsen, Kelly? Her work is wonderful.

It's such a hard balance, but you can have a partner and children and still write--just maybe not as much as you would have without. I was inspired by reading an interview with Dorothy Allison in the latest Other Voices (you can find the interview online ( in which she talks about how her child represents a few books she didn't write BUT that she wouldn't have it any other way for what she's gained.

So what seems like a sacrifice might actually be another beautiful layer added to your writing.

All this is to say that you can have it all, woman! :)

Kelly said...

I will check out her interview, definitely! Thanks Myf :)