I Don’t Really Write Happy Endings

Photo of an antique Singer vacuum cleaner on a filthy winding staircase with a quote from the blog post in the center.

It’s funny that my compulsion and decision to write came simultaneously with having children. The moment I lost control of my time, and my emotions started to run a little more wild is the moment I picked up the pen and paper. I took control of words in a way I didn’t feel like I could control my life anymore.

After the birth of my second child I decided to take a writing class. This soon turned into a writing practice that has become one of the driving forces in my life. Doing this while working full time and raising two children is not easy. There are times when the guilt I feel for deciding to take the time to write is overwhelming.

As a working mother I am already pulled in a million directions but I somehow feel those responsibilities are my burden because I decided to have kids and being so exhausted and imbalanced and at my wit’s end most days is simply what my lot in life is now.

It’s hard to break free from those confines and decide to do something for myself. Sneaking an hour here and there on my way home from work or on my break seems small but it takes away from what I feel like I should be doing. Going away for a week at a time to write for almost three years now with a group of women who have become like sisters seems like a huge burden to put on my husband.

But I have to do this and I have to be better at getting to the bottom of why I do it so I can fuel the days when I feel less than inspired.

What I write and the sheer fact that I write is a way I have taken control back.

Writing allows me to construct a world in which I call all the shots. There are no tantrums, no back talk, and no filthy stairs that need vacuuming. It’s interesting to come back to the theme most of my fiction has taken on. A good friend of mine pointed out that all of my writing is about women who are confined in some manner—in their pasts, in a relationship, in what they feel is their lot in life. My stories and my novel are all about the ways in which these women grapple with their inner voices telling them they’re trapped and more often than not, everything ends in death as escape. Not always theirs, but definitive death in one way or another.

I don’t really write happy endings.

I have been pretty lucky in my life. Happy childhood, check. Loving family, check. Gainful and fulfilling employment, check. Stable and loving marriage and pretty cool kids, check. I am an empowered and successful woman. So where is this darkness in my writing coming from?

Maybe it all goes back to the loss of control we feel when we bring children up in this world. Maybe I do feel trapped and lost and like I have no way out. Every day I look at my children and think of the possibility of losing them, and the helplessness that instills is debilitating. I also feel less and less like I have a say in what I do and what has to be done every single day. Being a woman and feeling powerless is a part of the fabric of our lives and we fight and fight to rewrite this story. We beat against everything we can, with our fists and our voices and our words. I never knew this darkness lay inside of me and now that I have tapped into it, a power is rising in me.

Writing is control. Plain and simple. We start to put the words on paper and they flow from us, and as much as we think they come from some magical place, from a muse we have been nursing all these years, we are wrong. The words form in our hearts and souls and we make them alive on the page, but they have been there all along. We take control of the language and the sentences. Whatever fears we have lying within us, whatever secret desires or fantasies or anger that is hidden below our surfaces come out on the page.

Being a mother and a woman can be stifling. It is sometimes impossible to maintain a family and manage a team at work and still have time to take a shower. As much as I feel like I have it together I know I do not. I lose my cool all the time. And that helplessness, that hopelessness comes out in my stories, there in the place where my fears can live. It is amazing what we can admit on the page.

This new year will come with its own new challenges. Every year does. Hanging on tight to this power I have is one of the most important goals I have set for myself. I will stare my fears and frustrations in the face and write the hell out of them.

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