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.