Every since 1929, female writers all over the world have been chanting a sentence of Virginia Woolf’s like it was a mantra. Agree or disagree, ever she-scribbler knows the quote:
In order for a woman to write fiction she must have two things, certainly: a room of her own (with key and lock) and enough money to support herself.
(Truth be told, I’ll bet a lot of male writers echo the sentiment but apply it to themselves. Privacy and financial security are woefully lacking these days for those who craft belle-lettres.)
As for me, I created that room in my imagination around the time I was 12. I was reading an exercise in a self-help book my mom had borrowed (It was the 70’s and the adult world was awash in self-help books) that suggested the reader construct an imaginary place equipped with everything needed to be that person’s spiritual and physical retreat. It was the reader’s famous “happy place” and, once constructed by the mind, it could be accessed whenever needed. Well, of course I started imagining mine.
What did it look like? It was a spot for someone addicted to reading and writing. Books by the hundreds, books by the ton, books reaching from floor to ceiling lived there. It also had soft light and an old-fashioned chair where I could snuggle down with a comfortable cup and a volume. The need for a cup meant a table must also be handy. I went on and on, adding bits to the imaginary room. Was a fireplace required? No but a desk suitable for writing long-length works was and a globe would not be amiss. Would shelves hold anything besides books? I wasn’t sure. It had to have the flavor of tradition with an emphasis on comfort instead of formality. Of course, I was mentally constructing an archetypal English library, sans tobacco smoke. But I was happy there.
Of course, I grew up and my husband and I found a house with a tiny spare room. For years it was simply “the dirty room” but some changes have been made.
Now it’s the library, the guest room and my “Room of One’s Own” but when I looked at it earlier this week I realized it’s something more: it’s the realization of the “Happy Place” I created as a child.
There’s the reading lamp and the small, handy table. No globe but a telescope lives here instead. And the shelves are crammed with so many books they threaten to sink the foundation but there’s more than books on that back wall. Can you see the black figure centered on the top shelf? That’s a replica of The Black Bird, The Maltese Falcon, “The-stuff-dreams-are-made-of” figure dreamed up by Dashiell Hammett and John Huston. (Hammett created the story but Huston wrote that line, so both of them deserve credit.) What a whale of a tale that is. The falcon presides over that wall of books as well as Wind in the Willow figures, Harry Potter wands, Woody and Buzz Lightyear and Opus from Bloom County. They all share space with family photos and far too many stuffed Bears. It’s not everything in the world I want, but everything here makes me happy.
Of course the wing chair anchors the room, like its picture now anchors this blog. It’s old-fashioned and comfortable and the most peaceful spot in the house. Somewhere on the road to finding my “Room of One’s Own.” I created the room my soul has lived in most of my life. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be enjoying this place when I reach 100.
So welcome to my room furnished with an eye for comfort and a love of Story. If you need to, take a mental vacation here. Reservations are being accepted now.