CULLITY: Writing demands alone time. You have to have it, and one
carves out that alone time from family and friends. But once you said
to me that the act of writing has everything to do with writers actually
needing to be alone in the first place.
BURROWAY: A frequent complaint of writers is that the work is done so
much alone. For me and for many women writers, that solitude is necessary, even primary, and hard to come by; it is, as you say, a matter of
carving out that alone time. This is a chicken/egg issue. Does the need
to be alone dominate, or the need to write? I shared a bedroom with my
brother until I was six or so, and although it was he who demanded his
own space, after he moved to another room, I relished and embellished
mine with a fierce sense of ownership. I also remember that at
Mademoiselle, when I became weary of the noisy staff room or the unhelpful
committee input on the writing, I somewhat contradictorily thought,
I’ll choose to be a writer because it’s something I can do alone. Only twice
since then have I shared my writing space, and in both instances, I was
bitchy about it. A room of my own: my mantra. So I suppose I think that
space is time, and as the physicists tell us, it is.
This is the many-sided contradiction: I am very social, need and
value friends, and like to throw big parties. I love a dinner for six or eight
where the conversation might take itself into unexpected alleys and byways. But then, I must be alone. I must be alone. Which is hardest when
you have little children, is always an issue of compromise in marriage,
can easily be thwarted by the most ordinary schedule of things that
women are praised for doing and/or expected (still) to do. In my experience, people both intimate and peripheral praise a woman for writing
but find it difficult to understand and to grant her the daily chunk of
emptiness that writing requires.
CULLITY: There are women today who continue to struggle with the
balance between being a writer, being a wife, being a mother. Some
women agonize over moving forward with relationships, with parenting,
due to the fear of losing their writing lives. Tough deliberations remain
for some young female writers about whether to share their writing lives
with mates and children.
BURROWAY: The actress Eleanor Bron was once asked by an interviewer
(female), “Don’t you feel you have missed the experience of marriage and