A Room of My Own
I have had a room of my own for over twenty years. It is a tiny, delicious space filled with favorite books, mementos from childhood, souvenirs from trips and ephemera that speak to me. Above my desk is a large map of Oberon’s Shield, with reference points such as: These be Tritons, The Banshees Bog, To Goblin Island, Here they doe Magick, The Weird Wood, and Vallies of Sleep. There are illustrations of all manner of fantastical creatures, including figures from history, fairy tales, and mythology. Along another wall, there is a giant triptych called Nebula, or birth of a star. If ever a jolt of creative inspiration is required, I need only look around the room.
In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote an extended essay entitled, A Room of One’s Own. In it she argues that like their male counter parts, female writers need to create spaces for their writing. While arguing for equality over against the predominance of male writers in the cultural traditions of the time, she is also referring to the sanctity of a writing space for women that is entirely dedicated to their creative process. I have embraced this concept whole-heartedly, and have been encouraged to do so by my life’s partner.
And so, my writing room is a place where I can leave manuscripts half-done, books opened, coffee cups and water glasses littered about, and not worry that anyone will disturb a thing until I return. I don’t pay bills there, make grocery lists there, or do anything other than creative work. It is a luxury of dedicated space that I know I am fortunate to have.
When we began our life together, we were living small and did not have a spare room to devote to such a thing. We did, however, earmark a writing desk in a corner which was completely off limits to prying or tidying. It wasn’t much space but it was enough to hold journals and notepads and manuscripts and writing implements. Gradually as the size of our living arrangements increased, my writing space increased until finally I had the first of such rooms.
I write this not to boast but to encourage others to create a space for themselves that is entirely dedicated to creative pursuits. If you are living small, it could be the corner of a room, a closet, an alcove under the stairs or simply a large table and chair designated for your purpose. Whatever the size and location, it should feel entirely yours, and have those things nearby that are requisite to your craft: a laptop perhaps, a thesaurus, a jar of pens that actually work, good lighting, post-it notes, reference materials. If you like to chew gum when you write – keep gum nearby. If you prefer lozenges, buy a box just for your space.
The idea behind filling your space in this way is two-fold. First: it keeps things at hand so you don’t waste precious writing time and inspiration by going in search of something you need. Second: it creates a work environment that embraces you and allows you to focus on your writing. As a matter of principle, I do not have a clock or a timepiece in my writing room; when I sit down to write, I don’t want to worry about the outside world. Again, I recognize that this is a privilege that not everyone can manage but I encourage the practice for those who can. How lovely it is to stop rushing about and simply allow yourself to enter into a space where time doesn’t matter.
Virginia Woolf was clear to acknowledge economic independence as an important factor when discussing female creativity. Her essay does not address the numerous instances of female writers who have written despite (or indeed perhaps because of) their financial circumstances. Indeed, there are many examples of successful female writers who have written great works out of the direst of situations. Whether we be male, female or other, whether we be rich or poor, frantically busy or at leisure, I would suggest that carving out a space to get in touch with our creative core, and facilitating that space as one that is equipped solely to engage in the creative process, is a deeply gratifying and fulfilling endeavour. I hope you will all find a room of your own to do so.
I hope this is helpful to you and your writing. Let me know!