When our youngest daughter claimed her independence, my husband gained her bathroom. He moved his health and beauty aids from our master-bedroom bath to the other, just nine easy steps away.
Since I’d never known the benefits of my own bathroom, I first founded a proverb on the sink’s countertop and in the drawers: “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Meaning, I pitched my mate’s cruddy stuff from his former three drawers and installed my belongings.
The notion of a room of my own fell upon my ears several years prior when I attended my first writer’s conference. An aspiring journalist, I looked and listened for guidance to commence my new avocation.
The keynote speaker addressed her female audience, many in the “second shift” of our lifespan. “What are the necessary conditions to think and write our best work?” she asked.
I held my pen ready.
She introduced Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own.
I knew little about the English author other than she drowned herself in a river. That tragic end of her acclaimed success deterred me from reading her work as it did Sylvia Plath’s poetry, and other writers tormented by mental illness.
I preferred Jane Austen’s fiction for her happy endings and compelling characters, and Madeleine L’Engle’s non-fiction to inform my faith.
Yet, I’d paid $35 and invested a Saturday to sit amongst several hundred women who knew much more about the writing industry than I. So I scribbled the following.
“First, the woman’s mind needs to be fed,” the speaker said.
A housewife and mom who cooked my mother’s four food groups and loved to read, I agreed.
She continued, “Second, Virginia Woolf asks, what does it mean to write?”
Again, I pondered why I desired to step beyond the comfort and privacy of my daily journal, into the criticism of the competitive and sometimes brutal literary market.
To preserve family and local history.
To encourage the reader’s faith, hope, and love in God.
To enthuse vision for a peaceful and purposeful future.
Foremost, to the best of my ability, persuade people to write their hearts out.
What I took home that October day in 1993 was this: a writer needs a room of his or her own, a holy sanctuary with a door to close upon a conceived idea to feed and deliver with much joy and travail.
The following fall, I resumed studies for my Bachelor of Arts degree. Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, appeared on a class syllabus.
I opened my Norton Anthology of English Literature and read the sixty pages of Woolf’s brilliant review of the historical absence of women in literature.
Dear Reader, yesterday I sat on the banks of Stoney Creek under a blue October sky. Amber and scarlet leaves fell onto the water, swept downstream by rapids.
I thanked Virginia Woolf for inspiring a study of my own, and “the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what (I) think” when in my shower.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.