Posted by: stelladuffy | August 28, 2012

there is no special club

“Lady writers with children, we’re on a different schedule.” – Zadie Smith

So, while I’m certain that there was context and there is so often misquoting and all of that, nevertheless …

Lesbian writers without children, we’re on a different schedule.
Infertile writers without children, we’re on a different schedule.
Writers with aged/aging parents to care for, we’re on a different schedule.
Writers with partners who are writers, we’re on a different schedule.
We’re ALL on different schedules. There is no club.


  1. Seldom a truer word spoken!

  2. ‘As a mother…’ (part 227). Apparently, according to the article, she’s now limited to four or five hours a day to write. That’s on a different schedule to many ‘lady writers with children’ I know! She’s a great writer but she didn’t exactly knock books out for fun before she had a child so I’m not really sure why she needs to justify her output now?

  3. Hear hear! Good point well made. Thank you🙂

  4. Please give mothers a break. Looking after a child is a full time job on its own and so is writing. So you can’t do both without being on a different schedule. Have a little sympathy for the hard pressed mother.

  5. I wasn’t suggesting a lack of sympathy, quite the opposite, I am suggesting anyone who thinks it’s possible to ever ‘only be a writer’ is both slightly deluded and lacking empathy with the rest of the world.
    (eg, I have never ‘only’ been a writer, always writing books while making theatre, while writing theatre, while having cancer, while doing Other Stuff – like everyone!).
    As for mothering being a full time job, well, I really don’t know. My mother – who was a good mother, working with the best she had available – worked full time and brought up 7 kids in a time and place of great poverty (post-war London, Woolwich), so my own truth is that I see it happen everywhere – women working full time while bringing up kids while trying to make their dreams. But I also see that it’s only in the wealthy West that we suppose that working AND being a mother is unusual. Isn’t it the norm for most women in the world?
    Regardless, I think my real point is that we all have huge burdens, huge sorrows, massive pain … and that is normal and usual. And we also, mostly, work on, through it. As, in my opinion, we ought to, our contribution to the world, as artists, as makers, being of value.
    I’m just not sure any one group gets a special dispensation, as if any one of us gives more than the other.
    (I have yet, for example, to meet the parent who is having a hard time – let alone the one who is loving being a parent – who would trade their hard time for my infertility …)

    I’m not giving mothers a hard time, I expect mothers (and fathers) to be just other people.
    No less, but also no more.

  6. I take your point about your own mother and what she did. There seemed to be a different kind of people in those years. I think we are about the same age so we have seen similar things. My parents worked whilst I and my 5 siblings were young in the post war years. We too lived in a poor area. What they call a sink estate now. I am aware that other people do other things whilst writing and are never just one thing. I worked full time, brought up 3 children and did a BA and a Masters. The years of doing my degrees were as a single parent in addition to all the other stuff. Perhaps you’re right and being a mother isn’t a full time job for most people but it does affect the time you have to put into other things. That is the point I was making. I wouldn’t swap any of the hard work it took to bring up my kids for your experience with infertility. I love them dearly and I wouldn’t like to try to imagine the pain of not being able to have them. But that doesn’t invalidate how hard it is. I can get irritated about the ‘as a mother’ statement as if only then has one any insight into different emotions but sometimes I don’t think we value mothers, or indeed fathers, enough. It’s not that parents give more than anyone else; let’s face it we can see enough bad parenting. It’s that if we don’t value the people who are bringing up the next generations then we lose a chance to help them get it right and that’s short sighted. (Not that I am suggesting you don’t value them either) I do enjoy your blogs by the way and I do like a good debate!

  7. One presumes that since she had success so young she hasn’t ever had to juggle anything with writing time. And lucky her, in one way. So I take her comment as coming from someone rather naive in the ways of us ordinary people who squeeze writing into the gaps between work, care, cooking, managing the home front etc etc. She’s just rather late to the party, from my perspective.

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