“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”
– A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
My greatest adversary is fiction. Being a woman who tries hard in real life to offer bare-faced – albeit tactful – honesty, creating stories out of thin air is a struggle. It’s not that I can’t do it; my imagination is a force to be reckoned with. The truth is, once i get those fiction writing juices flowing, great things happen. Getting those juices flowing, however, is a problem in and of itself. Because I am a woman without a room.
To have a “room” isn’t just a physical place, although it is necessary. It is having the existential room to breathe. I would like the right to say, “This is the thing I do, and unless the earth’s core sees the light of day, you are not to disturb me.” And it is not just about being “Mama;” It is being woman, sister, lover, daughter, girlfriend. That nurturing spirit makes people believe they hold rights to your time.
I don’t fault them. I LOVE being there. I adore the fact that my friends know that if they need me, no matter what time, I’m going to make myself available. I have no problems with them. It’s the “oh, I see you can’t call nobody,” people, or the people who immediately swan dive into their issues before you have the chance to tell them you don’t have the time, that get my goat. I won’t even get on my kids. Would you believe that there have been times that I have carried my laptop to the toilet with me, in hopes that at least the sanctity of my gastrointestinal needs would be respected. It only works half the time. When I am “befriended,” that brings up a whole new crop of issues. My last dating situation led to a sharp decline in my writing, because dude was flat out monopolizing my time.
I know how it works with men, and it’s what I admire most about you. You stake your claim to time and space, and everything else has to work around it. “This is what I’m doing. I’ll be back. Don’t call me. Don’t text me. Don’t send a carrier pigeon. I. Will. Holler. When. I’m. Finished.” And that’s the end of the story. Anyone who steps into that zone is met with the simple question, “Didn’t I tell you I’d be [doing this] until [time here]?” Love that. But I believe most women at least have the natural inclination to bend their situations around people. Not that women are lacking in drive of focus, and not that we can’t. Just far more often than not, taking time for ourselves is not our knee-jerk reaction. Women who do that are seen almost as revolutionaries.
Time, large chunks of it at that, is a critical element in fiction writing. You need to be all in. It takes time just to remove yourself from your own psyche and decide, “Okay, I know what I’d do, but what would she do?” It requires the type of thought that doesn’t come in five minute bursts between telling your dad you’ll call him back, sending your best friend a text and screaming at your kids to “stop fighting because you do NOT want me to get up from this computer and change your life.” (Yes. I’ve said that to my kids. And…?) The more I struggle with this novel that has come to mean so much to me, the more I realize the importance of carving out this crucial space for myself.
To my sisters of the quill, here’s to creating our own room, and only emerging when it is time.