Today is International Women’s Day, celebrating and supporting women all over the world. Did you know that in some countries IWD is an official national holiday? Or that IWD has been going since the early 1900s? Today, I want to show my support by blogging about what I feel are the main strengths and qualities women bring to the world of writing. And to finish up, I’m going to reflect on my own journey as a woman writer – and why I think it’s much harder to be a woman writing now than at any other time in history. But first, a word about genre …
Women’s Fiction. Why?
I consider myself a commercial women’s fiction author. But why is it called women’s fiction? Men read my books – not many, and one of them is my husband, but there are Amazon reviews from men and in the main they seem to enjoy the books. I know stacks of women who read fiction that is not “women’s”- thrillers, crime, science fiction – but they don’t say they read Men’s Fiction. They just read. I remember reading an interview with the late (and very great) Carol Shields, who was continually overlooked for major literary prizes because her work, now considered to be of huge literary importance, focused on circumstances and situations that would be of primary interest to women. But gradually the popularity of this kind of fiction grew, giving rise to the term we now all take for granted: Women’s Fiction. There’s no point fighting it – and I don’t know why anyone would want to – but it doesn’t hurt to take a moment to reflect on how so often women are only defined by the ways in which they are ‘other’ to men. In all aspects of life and society, it has long been the case that the male view is the standard by which other things are measured and then labelled. Just sayin.
Women’s Unique Contribution
Here are the qualities I think women bring to writing. This list does not in any way suggest that some men do not also have these qualities, or that all women do have them!
- Enhanced empathy, often developed by motherhood and caring roles.
- Superior Theory of Mind. For those who don’t know, Theory of Mind is (put simply) the ability to put oneself in the mind of another and see the world through their eyes, rather than our own. And woman are better at it. So there.
- Organisational skills – necessitated through having to multitask in every area of life, this translates to a better ability to manage all the various aspects of writing and publishing.
- Fantastic time management – it can be hard to fit it all in (see above), and many women who manage to write at all are often doing so around jobs, families and other commitments. And they are brilliant at it too.
- Creativity. And I don’t mean the kind of creativity that’s all about crafting and being ‘arty’. True creativity is about finding creative ways to solve problems, something women have always been brilliant at.
- Warmth and empathy, and this comes through in many a female author’s writing voice – it affects how readers react to characters and how involved they become with a novel’s events. Of course, not all women are empathetic – there’s one particular person on my mind right now who has really upset me recently but clearly has absolutely no idea and continues to act as though all is well … Anyway, moving on.
Why It’s Hard To Be A Woman Writing Right Now
In some parts of the world, not all, we have more freedom than ever before. We have more status and more opportunities. We are lucky. But, as Spiderman’s uncle famously said, with great power comes great responsibility, or something like that. There are so many competing possibilities, it’s hard to know how to define a woman’s life well lived. Is it having children and being a good mother? Well, why not? Or is it being your own person, marching to the beat of your own drum? Who knows. To write is to open up a vien and let your inner self flow out into the world. To the families of some women, it is considered a self-indulgent and selfish thing to do. Too often anything that takes us away from earning money or caring for someone or fulfilling our roles in society is considered self-indulgent and selfish. Right now I’m in my office writing – and I know there are people who think I do nothing all day, am ‘lucky’ I don’t have a proper job, or think my husband indulges me by allowing me to write. Hell, sometimes I think this myself! But I fight it. And you should to. Carve yourself a place to write, and celebrate being a woman writer. If you can’t do it on International Women’s Day, when can you do it?