Thursday, December 23, 2010


A Room of One's Own

Virginia Woolf's vision for women writers.

For years, while our children were living at home, every room in the house was fully occupied. When the kids were little I read Virginia Woolf's essay, A Room of One's Own, in which she posits that a woman requires both money and a room of her own in order to be able to write fiction. Money wasn't the issue, as my generation of mothers was the first to work outside the home without incurring society's wrath.

But I took Woolf's words about the room to heart and longed for the day when I could have some space to myself. I was pretty sure once I had the room, the words would follow. So when the children left home, I set to work fitting out an empty bedroom.

My husband built shelves and installed a desk and filing cabinet. I bought some comfortable chairs and hung inspiring art work on the walls. But the words failed to materialize. Instead, the office became a place to work on editing projects, pay bills and write minutes for various boards and committees. Within weeks the space was cluttered and contaminated by too many non-writing projects. In desperation I bought myself a lap desk and tried writing my mystery novel in long hand in a lazy boy chair in the den. After waking up day after day with a crick in my neck and drool pooling on the note book, I decided to try the dining room table. That, it turned out, was far too close to the kitchen. If I wasn't hunting around for something to eat, I was searching online for new recipes to deal with the leftover chicken lurking in the fridge.

Now whatever short stories I can manage are written on the dock at the cottage or ona makeshift desk at one end of the bedroom in the city. I still visit the toxic "room" but only to read my email or do some online shopping for my grandchildren. I don't believe a single word of fiction has ever come willingly to me in that room.

How about you? Where do you like to write?

Sue Pike has published nineteen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted will appear in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.

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