|Mary Bullington, "Creation," 2013|
Mixed media collage of painted papers
on monotypes and painted paper
(acrylic, gesso, oil pastel, india ink)
25" x 22"
How on earth did you find time to write all those books while having and raising 3 children?
I wrote a book with my first baby on my lap. Once I had two children, that idea didn't work so well. At times I have dispensed with sleep, though I don't recommend this as a way of proceeding. It probably impairs baseline health and will make the books more wild. I drafted The Wolf Pit on very little sleep because for several years prior, any spare time had been taken up by general over-busyness, two long-distance moves, and a problem pregnancy. My lively youngest child wasn't yet in school. Nor was he particularly sleepy. A little more sleepiness would have been helpful and obliging of him, but it wasn't in his nature, and so that was fine.
The questions of finding time and whether to have children are important to any artist who is a woman. It is essential to remember that children have no need for a writer (or other sort of artist) in their lives. It is essential to recall that they have a deep need for a mother. Not infrequently, children present syndromes or issues that turn out to be quite time-consuming. Of course, many of our great, now-historic women writers were childless--Woolf, Austen, Dickinson, Wharton, Emily and Anne Brontë, George Eliot, etc. On the internet, one can still learn that young women sometimes mourn that their children stop their writing, or diminish their ability to write. We live in an era of falling birthrates in the West, particularly in Europe, where many people are choosing to have no children and to enjoy the subsequent leisure time and increased wealth that comes with living without them. Having children is a decision, one with a cost.
For me, having children meant having a bigger life, a more challenging and profound and beautiful and even more painful life. After all, without life, there is no art. The question was whether I was willing to patch together scraps of time and quilt together books in them, whether I had the mental concentration to write books in that scattered way, and the discipline to write late at night. And yes, it turned out that I did. I should add that three of my books were impelled by the obsessions of my children. Also, fragments here and there ought to have footnotes to their credit. But even if those things were not true, the simple yielding to a larger life was transformative to me.
A final tribute: I would not have thirteen books and a batch of nigh-finished manuscripts if my husband did not cook dinner most of the time. He took over much of the cooking when my middle child was two, and life became busier than before, and he never quit. He's a stellar cook and baker. Am I properly grateful? Yes, I am.