Virginia’s Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ made a big impression on me when I read it at 14 or 15. The idea that independence—a room of one’s own and money, too— were the necessary requisites for creativity rang true for me as a teenager. The idea that women wrote (painted, sculpted, composed, etc.) in stolen moments at kitchen tables or on the side while the rest of the family rambled on, seemed to be the height of unfairness. I agree with my teenaged self.
I seek out a space to work wherever I go and I’m often successful. My writing space does not have to have four walls and a door—although that is nice—but it does require separation and a clear sense that the time I spend jabbing at the keyboard or scribbling in a notebook is not wasted. Creation is not frivolous—although for centuries the creative output of women was considered frivolous or worse.
When Woolf posits a fictitious sister to William Shakespeare—Judith—she describes a genius unable to find a socially acceptable (or even unacceptable) way to express a wealth of creative energy comparable to her brother’s. That was the part of the famous essay that I’ve carried in my head for years.
As I often write when I travel, Woolf’s idea was humming in my head when I could not find a comfortable space/place to write on a recent trip to Berlin with my mom. The room was very small for one person and terrible for two. It was also poorly designed and as the days rolled on it felt smaller and smaller. The lobby/lounge was almost comfortable enough for reading but it was terrible for writing.
The closest I came to letting my writer fly was pulling out a mini notebook and outlining a blog post idea when the rain chased everyone on the riverboat ride inside. Still, my mom and my friends were aware that I was “writing” as they enjoyed beers or coffee and I felt a little like one of the lady scribblers of the 19th century, penning romantic novels that might be published under male pseudonyms.
What I need is a place where thinking is cool and time with no one watching or monitoring is possible—Virginia Woolf was RIGHT!