It’s Wednesday, June, 27, 2012. 8 a.m.
Time to go to the office.
Oh wait, I am at the office! I have finally arrived at a place I have fantasized about — a room of my own for writing — and freedom from the 9-5 job world. Much as I loved having a career, I often coveted the life I imagined writers to have. Now is the first time in my life that I get to see how the fantasy matches up with the reality.
Will words come?
In her famous extended essay on creativity and the woman writer, “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf asserted that until women have had enough money (500 pounds) and space (a room with a lock on the door), over a long enough time (one hundred years), they would not be able to produce great literature to match their male peers. The dominant literary genre of her time was the novel, and her focus was on the woman novelist.
Woolf herself, ironically, had in fact inherited 500 pounds a year, and, presumably, she had a room of her own. She wrote beautifully yet walked into the River Ouse with a large stone in her pocket. She struggled with her demons as long as she could in order to become a mother to other women writers. She herself said it best:
“A woman writing thinks back through her mothers.” Virginia Woolf (Tweet Me)
The Anxiety of Influence
Woolf wrote to decry the absence of mothering in the literary tradition, an insight likely heightened by the fact that her biological mother died when she was just thirteen years old. She knew the feeling of being a motherless child, just one of the psychological burdens of the writer.
Harold Bloom, speaking about the male literary tradition, named another burden: the anxiety of influence.
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar challenged Bloom’s oedipal theory for its male orientation and renamed it to fit what they saw as the universal dilemma of the woman writer, still struggling for legitimacy within the tradition. They named their theory the anxiety of authorship.
Does it help a woman writer that she knows these things as she gazes out her window?
Writers will always feel anxiety. If they feel motherless, they are lonely. If they have mothers as magnificent as Virginia Woolf, they feel intimidated.
So what’s a writer to do?
Get in the chair and write!
Many of us crave the conditions ideal for writing. Then, when they arrive, we fear that we don’t deserve them or lack the gifts to take full advantage of them. It seems the Fates can get us any way we turn.
So let’s not turn, shall we? In the space below, please share one idea that helps inspire you to action rather than paralysis, whether you are a writer, a parent, another kind of artist, or just an ordinary human being trying to live a creative life. We want to know your secrets!