Every day I try to write. It is most difficult at home, where there are telephone calls, Linn, nursemaids, neighbors. If I had been a man it would have been different. A man's profession is respected much more, as is the work he does at home, his fatigue, his need to concentrate.
Try telling a child that Mamma is working, when the child can see with its own eyes that she is just sitting there writing. Explain to the nurse you pay dearly to do what is expected of you--explain that this is important, is supposed to be finished by a certain date--and off she goes, shaking her head, convinced I am neglecting my child and my home. Success in one's profession and trying to write a book do not compensate for domestic shortcomings as obvious as mine...
I doodle on a piece of paper and my conscience bothers me. Because I am a bad mother, because I am inadequate, don't answer letters, don't mend the faucets but allow them to go on dripping for months on end.
I have coffee with a neighbor and make excuses for everything I am doing, because I know that she will never understand why this is important for me. This terrible "female guilt." I dare not have music on when I am in the basement, writing, lest upstairs they think I am just sitting here loafing. I feel that to be respected I must produce pancakes and home-baked bread and have neat, tidy rooms.
These are my thoughts as I try to write about how good it is to have a life that gives so much freedom, so many choices...
--from Changing by Liv Ullmann
Liv Ullmann's autobiography has always been one of the Siren's favorites. She read it in high school in Alabama, when she had never seen an Ingmar Bergman movie, and indeed had barely heard of him. The Siren saw the front cover, and liked the looks of Ullmann. That was it. Later, after reading the book and falling in love with the actress, the Siren tried to watch Persona on whatever was passing for pay TV back then. She didn't understand a single frame. When the Siren looks in the mirror she can still see the line between her eyebrows that had its genesis all those years ago, as she furrowed her brow over Persona. Guess that one is due for another viewing. [Note: Persona still awaits that second date.]
Anyway, it was the account of Ullmann's youth and her struggle to become an artist that fascinated the teenage Siren, not the book's references to work versus home. Certainly the Siren registered passages like the one above, as that is how she was able to pull the book down and find those paragraphs in a matter of minutes. But back then, she read Ullmann's words and thought, "Poor Liv. Oh well, won't be that way for me."
In the words of Daffy Duck, "Ho ho and ha ha."
This is primarily a film blog, and the Siren has always operated on the assumption that people don't particularly want to hear about her personal life, which includes a devoted husband, three children under the age of 5 [now 7] and glorified hospice care for an ancient cat. [Said cat has now passed on, bless her sweet, ineffably patient and loving soul.] But this week, the Siren thought you might want a few words on exactly what takes her so goddamned long to write anything.
Partly it is control-freakdom of a very high order. When it comes to writing, the Siren is a slogger. She looks at bloggers like Lance Mannion and Glenn Kenny, able to turn out thoughtful posts almost daily, and she has no idea how they manage it. To write a paragraph, for the Siren, is to re-write it, flip it, delete a sentence, insert another, move the graf to the top, shift it again to the bottom and then delete the thing altogether. Afterward it is quite possible she will be flipping through blogger tutorials trying to figure out how to retrieve it.
Under the very best of circumstances the Siren might be able to write two or three things a week. Mostly the Siren doesn't have the best of circumstances. Rather than boring her patient readers with her domestic travails, the Siren thought she'd let Liv explain things for her.