Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There's Dishes in the Sink Because Mama's in Her Office

By Deb McLeod
When the news came that Alice Munroe had won the Nobel Prize, the New York Times ran a picture online of her sitting at a kitchen table in her home. Behind her, the kitchen counter is cluttered with cups and glasses and there’s dishes in the sink. The day before the Nobel was announced, the title of this blog came to me. 

It was closing in on Writer’s Book Club night. I was leading, so that meant a close double reading of the month’s book to prepare a talk on emotion and plot arc which resulted in a twelve-page analysis and a long spreadsheet. I was prepping to host a NaNoWriMo kickoff at the library on the weekend, putting in time to edit the last 200 pages of my novel, planning a beat sheet for Novel Two that I plan to write during this November’s NaNo, organizing and updating the fourteen-day NaNo Prep campaign that would start in a week, trying to find someone in town that does pet tumor removal by laser for better odds that our beloved Patches would get the care she deserves, helping my daughter with a collage creative writing English paper, leading three writing circles, prepping and editing for a full load of writing clients, carving out a full day to go to a real estate deal structure class with my husband and, oh yeah, celebrating my birthday. 

So I fly downstairs to make my every three-hour small plate of food (health has become a part-time job, but that’s a subject for another blog) and I see the counter littered with dishes. We have a system that works fairly effectively until it doesn’t and the whole thing falls apart. It was me that let it lapse. There just was no time.

So I prepped my meal, added a knife to the dish mix and went back upstairs to my office. 

If you’re trying to establish a career or a business, if you’re trying to have a life outside of home and hearth, you’ve faced these weeks or busier ones. Everyone has read the tips and tricks of women doing it all—or trying to. Ninety-nine percent of my clients are women, so I know of what I speak. 

I have witnessed home life suck a client dry. I have seen the harried hope of writing a book wither as writers plunk down at their desks at 10:30 at night when the kids are in bed, the kitchen is clean and laundry is rolling in silent machines. Many times the only thing that gets them to that desk is my deadline—by noon the next day. I have heard of husbands who aren’t supportive, of families who "would die if they knew what I was writing.” I have seen the struggle from writers who want to but can’t claim their lives and their stories. 

“If you can give up writing, maybe you should. Maybe just for now. Maybe forever.” I have actually said those words to more than one person in my life, including myself. I did give it up, twice. But the desire, the fascination, the drive never left me alone so I came back. I surrendered to dirty dishes and a smaller income.

Like all things, writing is a matter of choice and honor. No matter which choice you make, it’s your duty to yourself to honor that choice and give it your all. If you have young kids and you want to write, know that it will get easier. That stealing moments when you can will lead to longer and deeper commitment when your children get a little older. 

Now that my daughter is grown, I’m in love with every single session I conduct at my desk, at Starbucks and in my writing circles. I love waking up at 4:00 AM excited for time with my book. I am addicted to the feeling of accomplishment. To making something. Claiming something. To finally being a part of the conversation. As much as I loved being a mom and a wife, for this I came. 

To Alice Munroe and her body of work: We thank you for giving your time.

About the Author: Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach and founder of The Writing Ranch. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.  


  1. Yeah! As a woman I know of what you speak. I do now have a supportive husband and help in the home. It's my body and brain disease that won't let me do it all now. In the past it was kids and housework. but never no never did I give up writing. I would sneak minutes from sleep and I love the silence of predawn writing time.

    Thanks for this post. thanks to Alice Munro. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.