A Room of My Own

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!




  1. I love my office and I don’t work well with noise in the background. Unfortunately, my neighborhood has been besieged by a bevy of yapper dogs in the last couple of months. I’m surrounded. It’s hard to focus now in my home office when I can hear their helium-pitched barks. Someone tol told me it will get better when they all get used to each other. Five dogs acquired by three neighbors into months is way too many for my tastes.

    • Candy Korman

      Oh my!
      I don’t require quiet. In fact, I did a lot of work on The Mary Shelley Game in a cafe in Berlin. The hum of folks speaking German, the buzz of the espresso maker, street noise… it was a lovely backdrop. I associate that manuscript with that particular cafe. And best of all—every cup of coffee or tea came with a little cookie or chocolate. Ah…. heaven.

      Dogs barking? That’s not a positive ‘white noise.’ I’m dealing with construction next door and it’s one of those endless projects (converting a late 19th century building that was a high-end antique dealer/auction house into outrageously expensive floor through condos with every possible luxury). It’s annoying and it’s been going on and on and on…

      My interpretation of Woolf’s Room includes both the concrete ROOM and what the room represents—independence, autonomy, freedom, time…All of that is very hard to find. Even harder than a quiet apartment in New York City.

  2. I have a tiny office but it’s mine, all mine! Well, except for the animals that drape themselves over every horizontal surface. The keyboard, however, is off limits. 😀

    Honestly, I think I’d go nuts having to share a room with anyone. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      Mine all mine! I like the sound of that.
      Having place to work means that you take your writing seriously and it makes other people take your process seriously, too.