The Determination of Creative Women
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, What Women Artists Knew About Work, Mason Currey cites Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) letter to her sister-in-law with these words…
“Since I began this note, I have been called off at least a dozen times – once for the fish-man to buy a codfish – once to see a man who had brought me some baskets of apples – once to see a bookman… then to nurse the baby – then into the kitchen to make a chowder for dinner and now I am at it again, for nothing but deadly determination enables me to ever write – it is rowing against wind and tide.”
As I sit at my desk and computer hashing it out with a multitude of to-do’s nipping at my feet, I feel very close to Harriet. It requires determination and sheer work to find the time to read, think, research and write but I am compelled to do so by the pounding drum within me.
Finding time to create was difficult for many women throughout history. In many ways we have it easier today but media distractions can be one of our fiercest opponents. Technological advancements have disrupted and loaded our lives with interruptions and the one highest on the list is the smartphone in our hands. Its unrelenting grasp hooks us. We often get blindly swept away following social media, watching YouTube or are mesmerized by video games.
Women of the past had multiple distractions since so many worked from home. Most were solo entrepreneurs who produced in their own creative spaces. They had to learn to discipline themselves and learn business skills on their own.
The entrepreneurial spirit continues today. According to a 2017 survey by Remote.co, 28% of women who work remotely are CEO’s and leaders of their own companies compared to 5.2% of women working in S&P 500 companies and 6.4% of women in Fortune 500 companies. Interestingly, 90% of women surveyed chose to work remotely because of the barriers they felt from men in top leadership positions. Another reason was the inability to be a family caregiver due to conflicts in the workplace. The New York Times reported in 2017 that “half or more of the women who earn an M.B.A. that year would drop out of the full-time workforce within a decade.”
I had several distractions, including children, before I was able to fully pursue my first passion: theatrical acting. The balance of work and home responsibilities often continues to deter women from pursuing artistic and business endeavors. However, my dad, a basketball coach, often inspired me with these words from his mentor, former UCLA coach John Wooden, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” My dad taught me to be persistent and not to be deterred by interruptions. My heavenly Father has also taught me that when you are pursuing what you are called to do by God, interruptions won’t deter you either.
Completing a project of any kind may have momentary interruptions, many of which can’t be controlled. Some may only last moments and others, years. But one thing I have discovered is that there is real joy and contentment when you are in the zone of creative work doing what God’s called you to do. When you are in the middle of where He wants you, it doesn’t matter if it gets difficult. You’d do it again and again because it breathes life into your soul. It allows you to communicate with God fully.
At the end of editing my devotional, Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture, I was given a 24-hour deadline by the publisher due to printing issues to complete the final draft. I was forced to stay up and work all night, shoving all other responsibilities aside. Surprisingly, the time flew by. I found myself energized within the sleepiness because I was driven to submit a manuscript that I felt had been inspired by God.
Headwinds can never deter those who are “called according to His purposes.” (See Romans 8:28.)