Most of you have probably heard of Virginia Woolf’s famous quote about women writers:
a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction
And for the longest time, I thought well, maybe, and maybe not. Because there I was, I had both, and no, it wasn’t working out for me quite the way I wanted.
But did I really have both these things?
I have come to the realization that I didn’t.
I thought I had money, because I worked and I made money, but the reality was, I never had money of my own. It all went into a shared pool and paid the bills and yes, if I ever wanted something, I could go out and buy it using the money in this shared pool—but I always felt I had to justify it somehow, not to anyone else, just to myself. So even though I made this money, it has never felt like “mine”.
I’m sure this happens with a lot of people, and when you’re in the marriage the shared pool reflects your shared life. But when you’re out of the marriage, and there’s no shared pool any more, it begins feeling different, this awareness that your finances are no longer “ours” but “yours”.
And I thought I had a room of my own, because I’ve been self-employed since forever, it seems, and of course in order to do this self-employment, freelance thing successfully, you have to have a place to work. So everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always had an “office”. A desk. My own desk, where I sit for many, many hours of the day, working.
But lately, because of the change in my relationship status, I’ve been looking at places where I can go to work outside of my home. Since my ex- and I are going to be living separate and apart, but under the same roof, I’ve been feeling I need more than just my own mini-apartment—I need to take myself out there to do my work. Step away from the familiar, because things are changing. Because otherwise this big important change I’m living through will feel too much like a change in name only, when the actual “this is what’s happening today” won’t really change.
I want—no, I need—to have that feeling of my own space as much as possible while still accommodating this plan of ours to continue to coparent our son under the same roof.
So on Friday, I had a trial day at a coworking place, and I was absolutely stunned. I’d decided to test the place out by working on an upcoming deadline and seeing how it felt to be working someplace other than at my own desk at home. I figured I’d be finished at around 8 in the evening. But I ended up finishing at 5, three hours earlier than I’d expected.
Working away from my regular desk space, I was far more productive and focused.
And something else unexpected: even though it was only a trial space, the whole time I was sitting there, I felt like it was mine. My own little bit of space, where I could—and did—sit for hours, undisturbed.
Which is when I realized, I’ve never really had “a room of one’s own.” Because everywhere I’ve worked, since I was at home, I was always still a part of the whole scene, if you know what I mean. I was always there, ready and available and accessible for whatever interruptions came my way.
And trust me, there are always at least a few interruptions, especially since there’s always someone at home.
“My space” was, in reality, as much everyone’s space as it was mine. (Most mothers who work from home will know what I mean.)
So back to Woolf’s quote. I don’t know if this will help me write more fiction (or, more importantly, finish all the novels I’ve started), but I do feel like I now have the chance to find out. Because I will have money and a room of my own.
Now, I know when Woolf said “a woman must have money” she meant financial independence. And no, I will not be financially independent, not in that standard way. But still, I will have money to call my own. I can say, I’m going to go buy “X” with the money I earned doing “Y”, which is something I’ve never felt able to say before.
I don’t know why, but it makes a difference.
And I’ve decided to take the coworking space. I will work there, yes. But I will also write there. It really will be space of my own.
And because I’ll only be using it three days of the week plus every other Sunday (the other three days and the other Sundays are my days with Dylan) and because I will be paying cold hard cash for the space, my rather thrifty soul is already thinking along the lines of, “I must utilize every moment of it that I can”.
Which surely must bode well for my writing.
So I’ll work there. And I’ll write there every day I’m there. And when I have those occasional days without deadlines? I’ll write even more.
A room of one’s own. I like that idea.