International Womens Day is a great opportunity to think about women we admire. We can learn from their success but also from their setbacks. In fact, failure or difficulties overcome can often be more powerful motivators than success.
This International Women’s Day I am choosing to acknowledge women who write.
One of the biggest disadvantages of being taken seriously as a writer can in fact, be about being female. Probably the best-known English writers who published as men were the Bronte sisters. Anne Bronte (“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”) became Acton Bell, Emily Bronte (“WutheringHeights”) published as Ellis Bell, their sister Charlotte (“Jane Eyre”, “Villette”) published as Currer Bell. They could have published under their own names but in the 1840’s the books of lady novelists were taken less seriously. And anyway they didn’t probably think of themselves as “lady novelists” at all. They had the disadvantage of growing up in a remote village in Yorkshire and had a tough life. But they turned that into an advantage, and large parts of Jane Eyre are based on their childhood.
The other Victorian woman who published under a male name was of course, George Eliot (best known for “Middlemarch”) whose real name was Marianne Evans. I also admire George Eliot because she was a very clever woman who lived (unmarried) with a man who was described as a “barbers block” . He was almost too good looking for his own good. I would imagine in the 1840’s it took a lot of courage to live – “in sin” – with a good looking man, especially if you are more of an intellectual. The equivalent today might be if you are a woman running a successful business and your partner is a cute looking drummer in a not very successful band.
The other writer is really admire for her determination is Sue Townsend who first came to fame with the Adrian Charlotte BronteMole books. When she first started writing she used to hide the paper she wrote on under the cushions on her sofa. Her then husband would not have approved. Living with disapproval is not easy, but she didn’t let that define her. Sue later married happily and has been supported by her husband, but has had diabetes for many years and her vision is impaired. She cannot actually see enough to write, and dictates her books to a member of her family. So Sue has continued to have obstacles but has not let that hold her back from writing. She has now published over 10 books and counting.
So if you have full use of your eyes and hands, nobody disapproves, and you can be yourself the question is “Are you writing what you want to?” A blog can be set up quickly and you can get your message out there without even having to contact a publisher.
Sometimes what hold us back is difficult to identify. Often the equation involves permission to write and the realisation that the only permission we need is from ourselves.
Thinking about the difficulties that someone you admire has gone through can often be the catalyst to get you going. Who do you admire? Have they had to overcome a disadvantage?