A Room Of One’s Own

Several years ago I went back to school to take some writing courses and ended up completing my English degree with a minor in creative writing. One of the courses I took during that time was Women’s Prose and I became hooked on reading Virginia Woolf. I loved her voice and stream of consciousness writing but what really hooked me was her strength and how she used the art of writing as her basis of expression and freedom.

Virginia Woolf was one of the foremost modernists writers of the twentieth century, writing at a time when women were typically ignored or dismissed. In one of my favorite books of hers, A Room Of One’s Own, she writes,

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—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.

When Virginia Woolf wrote, simply finding a place to write was difficult; to be taken seriously as a writer was near impossible. Some discriminatory attitudes, as they relate to women, have changed in todays society while some have just become more subtle in the manner in which they are presented.

One of the lines from this book which always stayed with me related to Virginia not being able to visit the library simply because she was a woman. When she was locked out, Woolf wrote, “I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”

To be locked in. The idea and image is suffocating. If you’re locked out you may have the opportunity to turn away and begin again. You can choose another path or find an avenue that may be less constricting or impenetrable but the opportunity to breath remains an available choice. Being locked in removes choices from your life. You become dependent on someone else for the breath of your life; that freedom of expression that helps you find your own room. 

Being locked in continues to be a disturbing way of life for many people. The prison that is created by these thoughts or actions are easy to build and difficult to escape unless you have the strength to survive and the belief of a dream.

So much has changed in the hundred or so years since Virginia Woolf wrote these words.

Unfortunately, too much has remained the same.

 

33 thoughts on “A Room Of One’s Own

  1. Dale

    What a brilliant piece, George. Timely too as I have been considering going to get at least a certificate in creative writing at university. Now I’m thinking, why stop at that? I finally purchased my very first Virginia Woolf book (cannot believe I’ve never read her either…)

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Dale. I appreciate your kind words. You’re right….why stop there..:) going to school and working is not an easy thing to do but it was fun, rewarding, challenging and eye opening..:) in sure you’d have a great time.
      Enjoy Virginia Woolf..:)

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  2. sportsattitudes

    I have read Virginia. Well crafted post George. I also feel like last year I came out of a situation where I locked myself “in” and it was so much better to be “out.” It was a suffocating, toxic combo of a bad work situation with a pressing family health issue and the end result was I had to break down those prison walls that I had built up around myself. I had to embrace the “dream ahead” instead of “reality dead.” I freed myself accordingly and while the future is now unknown, the present is full of faith. And honestly…the future is unknown anyway, now isn’t it?

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    1. uju

      “while the future is unknown the present if full of faith…”

      Love this. I have read that our actions are motivated by either fear or faith. I understand the stronger hold of the former, even when it has the ability to mask itself as being cautious. The latter though takes a lot of courage, stepping into the unknown and a readiness to brave whatever comes. Admirable.
      I pray everyday of your life gives you joy in your choice 🙂

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      1. George Post author

        You’re right,uju. It’s much easier to succumb to fear than embrace faith, though the rewards of faith are so much greater. We all come to that choice and understanding in our own time, I suppose.

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    2. George Post author

      Thank you, Bruce. It’s interesting how quickly you can feel boxed in and how long it sometimes takes to free yourself.
      You’re right, the future is an unknown entity, which is why faith is there to keep us grounded.

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  3. Ilona Elliott

    Great post George. I love how you keep things short and yet touch on important issues and ideas. I recently read To the Lighthouse and found the style curious and hypnotic. It’s an interesting concept–being locked in, (or being the person who does the locking?)–can be worse than being locked out. I wonder if she was reflecting on how in spite of the fact that she was locked out, she was not deterred by that, and as you pointed out there is still the opportunity to breath. Thanks!

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Ilona. That really is an interesting book, isn’t it. You’ve made me think about reading it again..:)
      Her wording about being locked out/in is so interesting and can lead to so many discussions and scenarios. And you’re right, there are also those who do the locking and the reasons behind those actions.
      I try to keep it short but sometimes I fail…:)

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  4. uju

    “and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”

    Did you see this, George? I love how she turned the situation around in her mind– that in itself is choosing not to remain locked in. Wow.
    Can’t believe I never read her during my classics hunt.
    Thanks for sharing this post 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      It is a great line and one that I never thought of before reading her. With all the restraints she endured a woman back then she still found a way to free herself from those that attempted to push her down.

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  5. In My Cluttered Attic

    Writing is the freedom of expression, it needs to be unleashed if it’s to grow. The idea of someone and their imagination being locked up does sound a bit stifling. It sounds like Virginia Woolf was a pretty insightful woman.

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  6. Kim Gorman

    Interesting post. I also read A Room of One’s Own in college and became obsessed with having a room of my own at home. Every time it seemed within reach, something would happen to prevent it. I finally surrendered to having to write where ever I was, which usually means in the middle of all the noise and chaos of my busy household. I’m not sure I could write in a quiet room now.

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  7. Ann Coleman

    Very insightful post! And I loved how you pointed out that we can be “locked in” by our own negative thought patterns just as easily as we can be locked in by others. Creativity requires freedom of the mind, and that’s still hard to come by sometimes. And now I’m going to have to go read Virginia Woolf.

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    1. George Post author

      I agree, Jan and I think that’s true of all creative fields. I think any type of artist, of which writers are one, face the same type of skepticism from those who don’t understand or appreciate the process. I don’t know much about art but I can appreciate the talent and creativity involved. I understand the need to paint, draw or sketch. Others find it a waste of time, just as they do with writers, musicians, etc.
      of course those same people enjoy a good book or piece of music or the painting they have hanging in their homes. They just don’t give much thought to how it got there and the time it took to perfect the craft.
      When you throw in the fact that a woman might be involved in the creation, the road becomes even more difficult for them.

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  8. Carol Ferenc

    What a thoughtful piece, George. I’ve never read anything she wrote but now I will. She paved the way for women writers everywhere.

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