Virginia Woolf, angst-muffin, feminist, brainiac and brilliant author of To the Lighthouse, was right. In a series of lectures delivered in 1929 she said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf was responding to the prevailing notion that women shouldn’t attend college, as they had no practical use for their minds. And she was pointing out the impracticality of relying solely on daydreams and air.
I completely agree with the woman.
And I finally dredged up a room of my own. (I’m still working on the “money” part.) Yes, having a dedicated workspace rocks. You can shut your %^&* door. You can hear yourself think. Those hastily-scribbled notes stay where you left them. So why is it, then, that I feel most creative when I’m taking a bath?
Part of the problem is that most writers sit at their desks and expect to do logical, linear, analytical work. I do that, and then I check things three times. I have the Grammar Police on Speed-Dial. I’m a “Double Virgo” so a detail-oriented mindset and a fair amount of compulsion is hardwired in. Frankly, my mind tends to wander ten thousand times a day, so I need to be strict with the bugger.
But put me into a bath, give me permission to relax…. and I'm finally creative. I see how to infuse drama. Story ideas rise up with the bathwater’s steam. Things tend to get messy, but I’ve discovered that, yes, it is possible to write on a piece of wet paper.
The same thing happens when I, and other writers, quit "working" to do something fun, like ride a bike. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to travel by bike when you have to get off every two minutes to write, but at least you’ve got a great collection of scribbled notes by the time you arrive.
J.K. Rowling came up with the entire Harry Potter series when the train she was on, going from Manchester to London, became delayed. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus, was responding to a dare thrown out by her poet-friends, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron, to see who could write the scariest story. They were getting drunk around a campfire at the time.
So maybe a writer needs money and a room of their own, a haven in which to transform their notes into a finished and polished piece. And maybe it also helps to have the occasional hot bath, bike ride, campfire and/or delay on a train.
And then there's the power of love.... you wouldn't believe what THAT can do to your writing. But that's another blog.
What can I say? Truth is stranger than fiction.
Sari Friedman will be offering a series of Seminars and Writing Boot Camps at Napa’s newest bookstore, the Napa Bookmine. To learn more go to http://sari-friedman.com/Workshops.htm, contact Naomi at (707) 733-3199, go to Napa Bookmine: 964 Pearl Street, Napa CA 94558 or email sari at firstname.lastname@example.org.