When Virginia Woolf spoke of a woman needing a room of her own in which to write and create, she couldn’t foresee what technology would bring to the writing profession.
Unless you’ve studied English extensively, you probably haven’t heard of the concept of “a room of one’s own.” I’m going to assume you don’t. So if you do, I apologize for this quick explanation that befits Reader’s Digest.
Woolf’s feminist essay “A Room of One’s Own” focuses on the need for women writers to have a space of their own, both literally (as a quiet room) and as a representation of time and support. Without money, without time, without support, women cannot contribute to literature in the same fashion as men.
Say Shakespeare had a sister with the same genius as he. She would not have been a revered playwright: instead Woolf envisioned that Judith Shakespeare would have ended up pregnant outside of marriage, committed suicide, and “buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle” (Woolf).
I could go on, but I fear losing my non critical theory readers, so I’ll sum it up by stating the obvious: you cannot create if you do not have the resources. For many centuries, this was true of mostly women, though lower class men would have lacked similar opportunities for education and experience.
My point (and I’m getting to it) is that we all need a place of our own, a spot where we can imagine and create.
For me, my space is a computer.
Back in the typewriter days, writing meant making mistakes and being hard pressed to correct them. Though I had a correct button on my typewriter, the imprints of the former letters were always there on the page, mocking me. And it was a headache to do meaningful revisions.
These days, I love to write on computers. It suits me. I’m not a pound it out perfect kind of writer; instead, I nurture it along, nudging every bit of potential from the passages, choosing each word carefully, and perhaps re-writing a chapter here and there. Writing on computers allows to me to change anything on a whim. And I have a lot of whims.
After I graduated from Acadia and returned my school-issue laptop, I was computer-less. I had access to technology, but I couldn’t find a computer of my own.
Netbooks hit the scene while I was working at the radio station. While I was supposed to be writing ads, I surfed the net for the best buys. (That’s a little secret between you, me, and Staples.)
Finally, they came down in price.
My computer is no heavyweight. It’s a small blue machine with an 8.9 inch screen. I wanted the smallest one I could find, one with a miniscule screen and small keys waiting to be typed by little hands (enough minute adjectives?)
What I love about my computer is that it is mine. Totally mine. Password protected and everything.
Once I opened the laptop for the first time, I was eager to begin writing. After all, it’s a computer of my own, a place where I can create stories and revise them until I believe they are ready to fly from the nest.
I believe everyone should have the opportunity to create, a space in which to work. A place of discovery, where your imagination reigns proudly, and you delve into the intricacies of your art. Doesn’t matter if you write, paint, or make folk art out of scrap metal.
My netbook, which perches nicely on my lap, is a computer of my own. It frees me. (Though ironically, I do all my blogging on my desktop.)
Virginia Woolf did not expect the computer age to alter the way we write, but the principle remains the same.
If she were here, I think she would agree that every woman needs a computer of one’s own. Maybe a blog too, where she will always find a metaphorical room.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own.
*A great online edition from the University of Adelaide.