Susan: When I left the workforce to focus on writing, I did so without a promise of a paycheck. My step toward writing independence was a risky one: in many ways, I stepped off a cliff. I gave up my financial independence and now rely on my husband's income in order to finish my novel-- dreaming and hoping and praying that my risk pays off in the long run. At the same time, I've gained so much! I've been able to travel without "asking off" from work. I'm with my daughters for every important milestone in their lives. And I'm able to plan my own future as I complete my novel. I'm thankful that I can write whatever I want, whenever I want. I don't take any of that for granted. Yet with independence comes responsibility: I give back. In the past year, I've collected and donated over 3000 children's books and shipped them to children's homes in Ghana, West Africa, through the International Book Project and I'm currently working with a monastery in Nigeria to replace their library lost to fire. I don't take anything for granted, and I'm thankful for my freedoms and my writing community (you guys!) as I complete my first novel.
|Suffragettes with flag; Flickr: Creative Commons|
Pamela: I have lived a life free from an employer for almost 20 years. What that also means is I've built no retirement (other than what I contribute on my own) nor do I have benefits associated with a full-time job. What I have been able to do, independent of a boss, is explore my path as a writer. I don't take for granted one moment the fact that I can schedule my day as I see fit, and jeans and T-shirts are about as dressed up as I have to get. Commuting? I can barely stand the line to drop off my daughter at school. But I'd be remiss not to mention that my country doesn't prohibit me from writing about what I want to write. I may not push any boundaries, other than my own, but I rarely pause to consider what the writing life--particularly for women--might be like outside the United States. Do I take my freedom for granted? Yep, I sure do and I hope I never have to devote much time to worrying about that ever changing.
Joan: Prior to my work trip to China in January, I, like Pamela, rarely paused to contemplate the hardships women writers outside the United States might face. Or any writers, for that matter. Aside from the time required by my day job, I write when and what I want to, and the only one censoring my words is the critical gremlin on my shoulder. I didn’t meet any writers while I was in Beijing – the trip was strictly accounting business—but I often wondered if any of the passersby were fellow writers. China has many wordsmiths, of course. But they are not free to share their unique voices. In fact, the communist country has imprisoned a disturbing number of writers. There are atrocities all over the world, many far worse than jailing authors. But politics aside, I can’t imagine living in a country where those expressing their creativity and ideas are not celebrated, but rather at risk of living in captivity. This Independence Day, I’m grateful for the freedom of spirit and mind I’m able to practice every day.
Kim: It's odd to be writing about what independence means to me at a time of year when I have little of it. (I have two kids home for the summer.) Overall, though, I know I have it good. Like Pamela, I'm free of an employer. I've had over eleven years of writing during naps, play dates and school hours. I've been able to get away for research trips to Canada and to Western New York. There are sacrifices to being a one-income household. My "office" is in a common room. We don't take a real vacation every year. Our cars get us from point A to point B, though not in comfort or style. When my great-grandfather's art comes up for auction, more often than not I have to alert collector friends rather than attempt to snag it for myself. There are great benefits, too, though. I can get my kids to the activities of their choosing without having to worry about escaping from a desk job. I can spend hours of the day in another time period, seeing the world through other eyes, and then wake from the daydream and be there for my kids when they get home. I can go on their field trips and be there when they receive awards at pep rallies and watch their dance lessons. I'm blessed to be in both a family and a country that allows me to live as I choose.
Elizabeth: I think a lot of people figure writers have it easy. They envision the writer’s work day as a pajama-clad, coffee-indulged nirvana, and envy the lack of a boss and meetings and the angst of a commute. And while much of that might and can be true (pajamas, coffee, the joy of no I-35), that independence can be its own burden. When we think about the Declaration of Independence, we marvel at its elegance, its import, its impact. But what most of us probably rarely if ever stop to remember is that it was wrung out of long, steamy days in a crowded room in a hot summer among adversaries who put aside their differences long enough to agree that this must be done. That’s what writing is more like most days: not the delight of the perfect cup of Texas Pecan, but the sheer effort of showing up day after day to face the tough work that must be done.