19th Century Chick Lit

Part of the Web site, www.19thcenturychicklit.com, this blog is about the connection between the popular women writers of the 19th century and today's women writers and readers. I'm actually interested in women writers from lots of different time periods and genres--the 19th century is just my starting point.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Room of My Own

Virginia Woolf was the ultimate kick-ass chick: She was smart as a whip, cheeky and charming, and a champion for women writers. I think that she’d be thrilled with the chick lit phenomenon, tickled pink that at long last, women were making good money from their writing, without having to hide their manuscripts under the embroidery on their laps.

What I love most about Virginia Woolf is that she so got women. She knew exactly what we creative girls really needed: A room of our own and a decent cash flow. She knew that for decades, women had been denied the same opportunities as men; they were snubbed and locked out of libraries, colleges, and publishing houses, and it pissed her off. She hated that throughout history, women rarely had the space and income they needed to pursue their creative passions. That’s exactly what led her to write A Room of One’s Own. Her theory was that if women had a room of their own and 500 pounds a year, they would have a fighting chance to produce the masterpieces their male contemporaries had been churning out for centuries. Published in 1929, A Room of One’s Own is one of the best long-form essays ever written, in my opinion. It’s smart, funny, sad, poignant, fiery, and it drips with irony in the most brilliant way.

Why am I kicking off this blog rhapsodizing about Virginia Woolf, who’s not even mentioned on my site (yet)? Because I just painted and decorated my new home office, and I couldn’t stop thinking about A Room of One’s Own the entire time. I’ve been freelancing full-time for going on 5 years, and until July of this year, I had been working in a corner of my bedroom. My files, books, and boxes of notes were practically stacked to the ceiling. It was, in short, a crappy way to work and live. Sure, technically, I already had a room of my own because I was an independent woman, living alone and making a living. But I never felt like a real writer because I never had the space I needed. I felt phony, uncreative, and very, very frustrated.

When my boyfriend and I bought a house this summer, I finally had a space of my own: A little attic room where I could write and think, build my business, or just breathe. I painted it lime and aqua, and stocked it with the most colorful file folders, shelves, and storage boxes I could find. It would drive some gals crazy, but it’s exactly perfect for me.

When picking color, why not go bold?

How many women in the 19th century could have been saved by built-in bookcases?

So am I writing masterpieces now? Well, that’s open for discussion. But it’s also beside the point. After all, according to Virginia, “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

That sounds just about right to me.