How important is a room of one’s own? Virginia Woolfe was convinced that a writer would never be able to produce without a room and an income. This frees the writer from some of the distractions of life. Sometimes, I find myself wishing for a space that is mine, unshared, uninterrupted, and undivided.
I recently visited Jane Austen’s house in Chawton. It was in this location with the help of both her brother, who provided the house, and her sister, who took care of running the house, that Jane did most of the work of writing that we know about. She revised her earlier works and readied them for publication. She wrote new works. She blossomed as a writer. Is Virginia right? Does a writer need a space and some assurance of an income in order to really write seriously?
I read a lot. I am a librarian, and though there are those who fight the stereotype of librarians as readers, I embrace it. I read because I love to read, but I also read because I write. The best way to be a better writer, besides writing, is reading. I have recently begun reading the flaps about the writers on new books that I admire for their style, or their literariness, or the plot, or some other aspect of writing. I look to see what their habits are, how they work, what they do. I have found, much to my envy, that many of these writers live in beautiful places and are supported by a spouse, a trust fund, a former corporate gig from which they saved a ton of money, or some other means equally unavailable to me. I have also seen the occasional story about the writer who just decides to go for it. Live on Ramen and see how long it takes to make it—see whether their fortitude or their dream gives out first.
What’s a writer to do? I don’t have a room of my own, and I definitely don’t have a trust fund.
Here goes, and trust me, dear reader, this advice may not be what you want to hear, but it’s my job as a book coach to tell you hard things. Deep breath—in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” Yep, I pulled out that chestnut. It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. I recently attended the History Quill Writers Convention and it was wonderful. One of the most memorable things I heard was from the author of Sisters in Arms, Kaia Alderson. She wrote the novel, her first full length one (her earlier works were mostly Novellas) in 10 and 15 minute snatches on her work breaks, lunch and after her baby went to sleep. One attendee asked her what I am sure we were all wondering, how was that possible? She replied that it was the time available to her and she organized her writing in such a way that she could manage it. She was able to get around 1000-1500 words per day that way.
So, think about your days, the rhythm of your job, your activities. Even without a room of your own, is there a way you can squeeze in an hour or two to write? Maybe not every day, but most days? If you want to be a writer, you will!
Link to learn more about Kaia’s novel: https://www.kaiawrites.com/sisters-in-arms
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