A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
The lake is calling me.
The need for our own space is paramount. As Virginia Woolf so famously pointed out: women need a room of their own and money in order to fully live their lives. Surely this applies to everyone, not only those writing fiction. Perhaps women feel the need for their own space more keenly because the opportunities for solitude, particularly if one has children, have not been available to us. To have one’s own room or personal space might seem like a luxury but I have come to believe that this is simply not true.
In the posting, Honour Your Body, I referred to the need to be intentional in caring for ourselves- our bodies, minds, and souls. This care extends to the physical environment that we inhabit because our surroundings are essential to well-being. I have found increasingly over the years that the environment in which I live and work has an impact on how I feel. Cluttered disorganized spaces tend to leave me out of sorts. More simply designed spaces with light, access to trees and the sky, and filled with my favourite objects help me feel more centred. What’s more, the creative juices that I need in order to write are more likely to flow.
Our personal space honours who we are. I was struck by this fact when visiting a friend who with her husband built a new home on a lake. Everything about this warm and inviting home reflected something that was important to my friend- the design of the porch; the colour scheme; the furnishings from previous dwellings complemented by new purchases. All were tasteful and simple and practical. There was an ease about the place. And I thought to myself, as I gravitated towards a particular chair that overlooked the lake: I am very comfortable here. Soon that chair and lake were calling me.
The craving for personal space must at some level be rooted in a desire for solitude. English literature scholar Carolyn Heilbrun, recounts her experience of buying a home in the country at the age of 68 in spite of already owning a family home. “Solitude….” she notes, ”if one has not been doomed to aloneness, is a temptation so beguiling that it carries with it the guilt of adultery and the promise of consummation.” * This was a happily married woman with grown children who yearned for her own space.
The desire for solitude can be easily misunderstood by others- particularly those with whom we are close. I know many women who want their own space but none would say they want to be alone forever. With great insight, Heilbrun observed that those who seek solitude know they can leave it. And her own home which she bought and furnished was one she eventually came to share with her husband, each in their own space doing their own particular work under the same roof.
The space we create for ourselves is as unique as we are and only limited by our imagination. It doesn’t have to be a second home- it can be a room or a personal work space, or a comfortable chair with reading lamp beside it, or a grassy patch by the lake, but it should be our own. And how we design or create that space is up to us. But whatever that space is, let it be a place where…
- We are rejuvenated and refreshed;
- We can create;
- We experience solitude to the extent we need and want;
- We are surrounded by beauty and our favourite things;
- We feel connected to nature.
For me the quintessential hallmark of a wonderful personal space is that it calls us. It may be a place where we are alone or a place of shared solitude with someone we care about. It does not matter; but it should be space that restores and gives us peace with the certainty that it is part of who we are.
* From Heilbrun, C. (1997). The Last Gift of Time. Life Beyond Sixty. The Dial Press, New York, p 11.