As is so often the case, what is a good strategy for writing is not always a good strategy for a good or happy life. That is to say, we are always taught not to compartmentalize and to be flexible. The only way I have been able to survive as a writer, also a wife, teacher and mother, is to compartmentalize like mad. So that if I have two or three ideas going at once, I discipline myself to do only one at a time, promising myself that after an hour I will allow myself to move on.
What is important for me is to stick to a writing schedule, which means my tush is on the chair for a certain amount of time every day: I don’t require any page or word output from myself, just a time of not moving on to something else.
Writing when I had young children and limited time to work was good training for this.
Mary Gordon is the author of eight novels, including Final Payments, Pearl, and, most recently, There Your Heart Lies, as well as six works of nonfiction; and three collections of fiction. She has been awarded the Story Prize and many other honors, including a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at Barnard College and lives in New York City.