"If She is to Write Fiction"*

It would not be an understatement to say that this little book changed my life. Here are its famous first words:

But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction--what has that got to do with a room of one's own?

And the answer is, of course--everything. As I have noted elsewhere in this blog, for a long time I talked the talk of writing without taking the first hard steps of the walk. Instead I found lots of reasons not to write. Some good: "I have three boys under the age of seven." Others pretty lame: "But Project Runway is on tonight." Woolf famously posited that women could produce the same kind of writing that men did, if only they had rooms of their own and five hundred a year. Well, we need more than five hundred nowadays, whether it's pounds or dollars, but one thing hasn't changed. Women who write need a quiet place to work, free of distractions, preferably with a door that closes. Not all of us have that luxury. I marvel at the stories of women who write their novels in the family car during soccer practice, scribble poetry at four in the morning before the baby wakes up to be fed (or while the baby is feeding!), or give up lunches at work in order to write. While I was raising my sons, I was too exhausted, too involved, and yes, too distracted to sit down and write. I didn't start work on my first novel until in was in my late forties. Strangely, it was when I was back working as a teacher, energized by my professional life--and despite all those papers I had to grade--that I carved out time to write. But it wasn't until this year, when my oldest moved out, that I finally got what I had been waiting for: my office. Okay, so there's a beer stein on the dresser and a wooden model airplane sitting on top of the TV that's collecting dust. A sticker for the band M.O.E. still adorns the wall, as does his diploma from Rutgers. And while my beloved son is welcome to sleep here any time he likes, I will slowly be moving his things up to the attic. Because this room is now mine. I sit here at my great-aunt's secretary desk and work by the light of a low lamp. There are two windows on either side, with lots of sun during the day. In the glass case above the desk are books by Austen, Eliot, Wharton, the Brontes, and of course, Virginia Woolf. It's easy to be inspired:

Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days.

♥ ♥ ♥

*"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Virginia Woolf