Paintings of Women Writing

A Lady Writing a Letter by Johannes Vermeer.

A year into the pandemic and we still can’t visit museums or other venues. At least we can enjoy art online. A number of my favorite museums are hosting virtual lectures and tours. You can even take 360° tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the National Museum of Women in the Arts has an online exhibition you might like, The Book as Art: Books in Disguise.

Last week we looked at paintings of women reading. Today, let’s take a look at women writing.

I don’t know how I feel about this painting by Vermeer. The subject in the painting must be upper class because her coat is lined with ermine. Also, is she wearing large pearl earrings? She must be very rich indeed. How do you feel about this painting?

Young Woman Writing by Giovanni Boldini

The first thing that popped into my mind about this painting is that the subject doesn’t look very comfortable. But maybe that doesn’t matter since she seems focused on the letter she’s writing. Maybe she’s writing a love letter to a suitor…

Phillis Wheatley writing.

This is an etching of Phillis Wheatley. She was an enslaved woman who secured her own freedom. Phillis became a literary prodigy and visited London in 1773 to promote her poetry. I hope you want to learn more about Phillis. If you do, you can learn more about her on this podcast by The History Chicks.

Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer 

I don’t know Vermeer well, but I am catching on that he enjoyed painting vivid scenes of women while they were writing. The detail in this painting is incredible. Did you notice the sealing wax on the floor? There is even a painting in the painting!

What’s your favorite painting of women?

xoxo, Jane

At-Home Writing Retreat

I’ve always wanted to go away for a writing retreat. Doesn’t it sound wonderfully creative and fun? But the truth is that a writing retreat is not an option for me. I haven’t found any that interest me within my preferred price range. Maybe some day this might be possible. Plus, if I’m going to spend money on a hotel or a cabin nestled in a forest or mountains, I’d want my husband to come along. I decided to create my own writing retreat at home. I scheduled the writing retreat for a day when my husband would be out of town and took a day of vacation from work. (It also helped that there are no children afoot.)

I held my at-home writing retreat in late 2019 before the global pandemic.

Preparation

To avoid distractions, I cleared my schedule. I didn’t want to have an excuse to stop writing, so I handled household chores, grocery shopping and errands ahead of the scheduled writing retreat. It wasn’t easy because I had to tag on extra hours at the end of each workday over the course of one week to get everything accomplished, but it ended up being worth it.

I made sure I had healthy snacks, fruit and tea on hand. I also prepared a slow cooker meal (Greek lemon chicken with potatoes) early on the morning of the writing retreat. I didn’t want to take time away from my writing by having to figure out lunch during the day. Having lunch and dinner ready was the best decision for me.

I decided what time to start and end the retreat. For me, the best decision was to start at 7:00 AM and end at 4:00 PM. Though you could easily start your at-home writing retreat later, especially if you prefer exercising first thing in the morning.

To stay focused and motivated, I wrote out my retreat goals. My goals were:

  • Write (I didn’t set a word count).
  • Research a particular subject for my story.
  • Listen to specific podcast episodes.
  • Work on editing a specific section of my manuscript.
  • Organize my writing project e-folders.

Writing Retreat Day

I followed a loosely planned schedule per the goal list. I omitted distractions. I didn’t check emails or any social media during the duration of my retreat, not even at lunch. I turned off my phone notifications. I avoided temptation by clearing my cookies. Avoiding social media was probably the best thing I did for a productive writing retreat. The most interesting aspect of this was that I learned I didn’t even miss Twitter or Instagram. I never once had the urge to log in.

I wanted the writing retreat to be more than just writing and editing. It was important for me to seek inspiration by connecting with nature, so after lunch I took a long walk on a nearby trail.

It’s important to have fun and I spent an hour reading a book that wasn’t related to my research. This might seem counterproductive, but I think reading for pleasure and letting your mind wander can also create bursts of inspiration for new ideas.

Outcome

The day flew by. Having an at-home writing retreat was highly productive and left me feeling motivated. I completed everything on my list. I wrote more words than expected and even drafted the outline for the next book in my series.

I hope this helps you plan your own at-home writing retreat. Please let me know if you have any questions or just want to chat about your own writing retreat.

xoxo, Jane

Hello.

The social injustice in our country (and actually in the whole world) is making my heart heavy with sorrow. I feel helpless. I vote in every election and I hope you do too. I have also donated to Black Lives Matter and to the Equal Justice Initiative. I will continue to make donations to them and to other causes that work on ending white supremacy in the United States.

As you can image, I am not in the mood to blog about books and such. It seems trivial compared to what is happening right now. I’m going to continue working on my own book while the blog stays quiet for just a little while longer. Thank you for bearing with me.

I leave you with this poem by German pastor, Martin Niemöller, who survived the Nazis. Unfortunately, this poem is as timely as ever.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

xoxo, Jane

Writing Prompts

person typing on typewriter

I was searching for writing prompts for myself when I came across an author’s website where she was charging for them. That didn’t sit right with me, so I came up with my own prompts which I’m sharing with you. Enjoy!

  1. Write the first sentence of a cozy murder mystery but use the words “green” and “rendezvous.”
  2. It is modern day. You are standing in line at the post office. Your favorite 19th century writer just walked in. What do you do or say?
  3. Your cell phone rings. You answer and it’s the FBI. What happens next?
  4. You discover an unpublished Jane Austen manuscript. What is the title?
  5. You find your late great-grandmother’s diary from 1917. Assume you can read the language in the diary. What’s the most interesting entry you read? Write it diary-style.

Feel free to leave your own writing prompts in the comments.

xoxo, Jane