With Apologies to Virginia Woolf

A little while ago, I requested that people send me reading lists. On one of the lists John mentioned that I should definitely pick up Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. This is one I’ve read before, but considering the slight funk I was in, better to read a book about fiction, women, and writing by one of the greats.

Here’s the problem.

One of the main tenets (actually the main tenet…note the title of the book) is that one must have ‘money and a room of one’s own’ in order to write. And I looked around at my life and noticed that I have neither of those things.

Money: yeah, pretty much, no.

A room of my own: I share a loft with a husband and a baby. I do have a desk, but if I use it when I’m ‘free’ to use it, I wake everyone up and there goes any chance of creativity. Sometimes I’m so not-alone my skin is tingly from just being in the room with other people. At least I’m with people I love. (For example, as I am writing this brief blog, my brother has gone through the room in order to use the bathroom and I can hear the baby and my husband crawling up the stairs, heading my direction-wait baby tumbled now there’s crying….)

Anyway, I’d like to amend this oh-so-famous tenet, because if I am to become a writer I cannot do it in the way Woolf accomplished her career. Times are a bit different. Let’s look at it in the spirit I think Woolf meant:

You cannot be a writer without freedom and a spot to jot.

You must have freedom in order to create. Nowadays, women are not bound to the idea that we should be uneducated, the idea is, in fact, abhorrent. We can have our own money, property, and pursuits of happiness without anyone (except maybe a couple Neanderthals) thinking the less of us. By freedom, I also mean that you must have some free time.

So, freedom: Yep, I am not restrained by social convention. And if I don’t have free time, I can definitely make it. Observe: brothers have left the bathroom and loving husband is comforting tumbled baby and I’m still writing this little blog…which is actually longer than normal.

You must also have a spot to jot. Stephen King is my example/inspiration here. Not only did he not have money when he started, but he also made a place to write. He wrote with a freaking typewriter on his lap! I at least have a computer. You can write anywhere-Ali is my example here, if you have a piece in your brain that will let you tune others out. Your spot to jot can be your brain, if nothing else…but eventually you do need a physical jotting place.

Spot to jot: The aforementioned desk. And my new toy: the lap desk with attached light. Awesome. Got some FJR work done on that yesterday.

With apologies to Ms Woolf-
If I followed her line of thought, I couldn’t write-or at least succeed. I don’t want to be an angry girl writer, writing to defend my right to write. A great many wonderful women have done that fighting for me (Jane Austen, the Brontes, Woolf herself).

Because times have shifted and because I want to be on the shelves next to her I must reject her most popular of tenets. I must do the work without money and without a room, but I think I retain the spirit of her argument.

Ali John Mentors Writing Thoughts

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Like you say, the spirit of her tenet is more useful than a literal interpretation. So yeah, less “A Room of One’s Own” and more “A Lap-Desk of One’s Own.” 🙂

  2. Or even an hour or two of one’s own, if not uninterrupted then with ignorable (word?) distractions. It works for me even though no one hands it to me. I have to take it by force, well kind of. At any rate I remember someone (I think it was M. Scot Peck, not sure) telling a tale of a wannabe writer who was fairly wealthy and set up an elaborate writing room with all the inspirational books one could want, a massive desk and beautiful paper and pens. And he just sat there and thought about writing but did none. He was posing as a writer. I’d rather steal the time to write then pretend I’m writing.

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