Virginia Woolf famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Indeed, many great female writers were blessed with both luxuries. Austen. Dickens. Chopin. But I read an interesting counterpoint (I wish I could remember where I read it): what about women like Phillis Wheatley, who did not even have the luxury of owning her own life, and wrote anyway?
When embracing your creativity, it’s tempting to shut out the world. Believe me, I’ve been there. Caught in the tide of what some call “creative illness,” I’ve spent many days shut away alone, succumbing to the promptings of the Muse. But I reached a point where I didn’t want to exist in a bubble anymore. I wanted connection. I wanted to give back. I wanted to take action in the world according to my own values.
But how to do that without sacrificing my artistic soul?
Women like Phillis Wheatley were, and are, at the opposite end of the spectrum of freedom—they can scarcely call their life their own, much less have money and a private room. Millions of women across the globe live without formal education or economic support. And yet many of these women create.
Perhaps the “room of one’s own” exists not externally, but inside the woman herself. “There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind,” Virginia Woolf also wrote. Maybe she sensed that her private room was merely a reflection of the freedom she possessed within herself. It is the ultimate freedom of thought and feeling that every woman and man on Earth possesses.
It is true that life is easier if your external existence supports your internal–if you have a private space to match your private thoughts. But I have found it best to live in compromise. An introverted and highly sensitive soul, I need a calm, quiet place to rest, recharge, and create. But that isn’t my full time gig. Much of my waking life, I now spend out—out of the house, among people, showing my face. Talking. Interacting. Connecting.
Being out and about gives me tremendous anxiety. I deal with it every single day. But I come home at the end of the day with the kind of elation of a warrior who has just wrestled a grizzly bear. I may have some wounds to nurse, but dammit, I confronted something terrifying, and came out alive. There have been days, months, even years when the bear has swallowed me up and spit me out, and I barely feel up to wrestling her again. But I have a hint for you: Choose your bear carefully. And if you can’t choose your bear, see which choices you do have. Such as starting your very own blog, and creating some space for yourself there.
Peace be with you,