Today we celebrate the extended essay by Virginia Woolf entitled “A Room of One’s Own”, based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. It is considered non-fiction and a feminist publication since it advocates space, both literal and figural, for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. – Ecclesiastes 9:10
I’m sure we all agree that women have made their literary mark since the late 1920’s, early 1930’s. We’ve come a long way, baby (and I’m not selling cigarettes either). Even the toughest writing gig of all, journalism, has seen women break in and break through to the top. I admire women like Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Connie Chung because when they started it was still a man’s world and they had to work so much harder to get anywhere. They were and are such intelligent and savvy women.
When I was taking journalism courses, I remember reading articles about all 3 of these women, and wishing that I too could poke a hole in the ceiling one day. I read all of the interviews they gave and did a lot of daydreaming about how I would be the next woman who knew the pulse of America and would eagerly show up to report about the condition of the patient.
I guess life happened and my priorities shifted. I got married and… well… my dreams became a little more attainable and I took the easy way out. But I still had a desire to write. It’s a gnawing feeling that won’t leave me alone no matter what. Every article I read I’d say to myself, “I could have written that better.” Every interview I listened to, I’d say, “I would have asked this question” – or, “I would not have asked that question.”
I’m sure “Judith” would have had a very rough go of it to become everything that William became – back then. As I say, in our time, you have to be smart and keep your wits about you, but it’s not the lack of opportunity to learn that would hold her back. It would be her own limiting thoughts – and perhaps the fact that she keeps comparing her own talents to that of William. She needs to focus on being the best writer she can be!
While thumbing through a magazine one afternoon at work, I spotted an advertisement that said, “Write Children’s Books”. I tore it out and kept it in my desk for a long time. Once in a while I’d take it out and look at it, but it took many months before I did anything about it. I thought and prayed about what to do. Finally one day I mailed in the application.
Within about a week I received my first assignment. As I completed each step, something inside me was beginning to spark. I don’t think I had enjoyed learning so much in my life. For the first time in my life, I was learning and enjoying every minute of it. My corrected assignments came back to me. I made minor mistakes, but those are the ones I learned from and carried with me to the next level.
When I read the name of this special day, my mind went back to the time when I had all the time and all the space I needed to write. I worked first shift and my husband worked third, so I had plenty of time to write. My dad made me a special area where I could have a typewriter (no technology back then) and keep my journals and poetry within reach, as well as the class assignment I was working on.
Have you ever wondered why writers choose the subjects they do? I wonder why Stephen King writes some of the creepy stuff he writes. Here’s my answer:
You know, sometimes people say to me, “Why do you choose to write that creepy stuff?” And I usually say, “What makes you think I have a choice?” – Stephen King
Serious writers need a lot of time to write. We need time alone to think, and we need our own space. Today I keep everything on my laptop, but I still have the same needs I had back in the 1980’s. Time to write and a room of my own – or at least a little nook. Wink! 😉