A Room of One’s Own – A reflection

I was pondering about my current stressful day job situation — actually, I’ve been pondering about this for quite a while. Job dissatisfaction inevitably makes the thought of quitting and writing full time for a while so very tempting. I mean, I know I couldn’t actually make a living writing. It’s a far off dream. I was just thinking for the next month or so, that’s all.

A phrase came to me today, the title of Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own”. I’d never read it before, but I had a foggy idea about the theme. Well, no, actually I didn’t. I knew one thing about the essay; this line: “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.

So I went searching to find it online and then was compelled to read. An essay, of all things, on a Friday evening after a long, hard week of work. I think this is okay to link because it’s licensed: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91r/

It’s amazing. (Yes, laugh at how I’m just now discovering Virginia Woolf. I was a math and science gal, remember?) She’s a wonderful writer and her use of language is so complex and unexpected. The way she formulates her ideas seems like a stream of consciousness, but when the ideas start to gel together, the effect is astounding.

I had to highlight a few quotes that kept on pulling at my mindstrings to show you the progression*:

“Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about.”

“Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness.”

And then when reflecting on the argument that no woman could match the genius of Shakespeare:
“For it is a perennial puzzle why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature when every other man, it seemed, was capable of song or sonnet. What were the conditions in which women lived? I asked myself; for fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid–air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.”

I confess, I’m not done yet, but I found a little bit of peace and an outpouring of inspiration in her words. If I didn’t have this job, I wouldn’t have the freedom and the peace of mind to write. I’d be scared and fretful. My thoughts wouldn’t be free to think about imaginary places and people. Back in the day of Shakespeare or even for many in the 1920’s on the cusp of suffrage as women were entering the workforce, a woman didn’t have means to make money. She didn’t have the means to give herself the freedom to become educated and travel and absorb culture in order to create.

My day job gives me that freedom. I have the luxury to travel to a couple of conferences a year and go out with my writing partners. I load my shelves with as many books as I want. I’ll still strive to find balance within the dreaded day job, but I know it’s a fallacy to think that having more free time without a paying job would allow me to write.

I have a room of my own and I have a little money. And it’s so empowering that I’m writing in a genre and in a time filled with women who, struggle as they might with jobs, family, and all of life’s ups and downs, can still find the peace of mind to create.

*Quotes are from Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”, an essay based upon two papers read to the Arts Society at Newnham and the Odtaa at Girton in October 1928.


  1. Natasha Moore
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 06:36:56

    “If I didn’t have this job, I wouldn’t have the freedom and the peace of mind to write. I’d be scared and fretful. My thoughts wouldn’t be free to think about imaginary places and people.”

    Ooh, Jeannie. Thanks for posting this! I also dream about quitting the day job and writing full-time, but this puts reality in perspective and make me realize it’s not so bad after all.

    Natasha, off to check out the link…

  2. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 07:13:31

    I’m not saying I won’t daydream about it after eight hours of meetings and customer calls.

    I’m not done with the complete essay yet. It really makes me want to read her books.

  3. Leigh Royals
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 10:34:10

    What an inspiration you are! the wonderful thing about our society today is that women can choose what they want to do. I just choose to do it all. I work full time. Full time mom. Wife. Want to be a full time student and author too. But something’s got to give. I too have the desire for my ‘own room’ So many distractions, some of my own making or ADD, and others my progeny (sp?) and other family, just are not conducive to that peaceful space one needs for their mind to create.
    Then, of course, when I’m at work, is when my mind is the most active and creative and I can’t do anything about it!

  4. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 13:41:27

    Leigh, I’d say you are the inspiration! That’s the life I want, working, being a wife, a writer and one day, a mom. It’s daunting to even think about, but there are so many women out there doing it. It’s so uplifting to think of it as an opportunity rather than a burden.

  5. Victoria Dixon
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 20:41:11

    Oh, I dream. Each time I receive another hateful e-mail from a boss or have to deal with another clueless client, I dream for hours. Days. Months. Someday, yes. I will leave behind the grind of my part time drudgery, but does that mean my life will be perfect? No. I’m not so naive. I will find ways to fill the time, I’m sure. Sigh. Yet still, I dream. 🙂

  6. Jeannie Lin
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 05:54:35

    Some days those daydreams keep me going!

    It’s humbling to think that in another time or place, all the drudgery in a lifetime wouldn’t yield money and a room of one’s own. There was something about Woolf’s words that made me feel almost opulent in that respect.

    Woolf did have an inheritance from an aunt which gave her the freedom to write. I have no such aunt, but I do have much more in the way of opportunity to make up for it. 🙂

  7. Lisa
    Jan 18, 2010 @ 21:20:41

    Oh, I love this. Balance is key, right? Sometimes having a day job makes your passion that much sweeter, right?