by Linda Rodriguez
This holiday season is a time of excitement for me. I am about to get that room of my own that Virginia Woolf warned all women must have to write: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
How can this be, you might well ask? I have written and published six books and have five more in various stages of the publishing process. Surely, I have had a room of my own in which to do all of this. And yes, I did have a lovely workroom that covered half of the upstairs floor of my house. Large and airy with many windows and a balcony, which I never used because I had so many bookcases in front of the door to the outside.
This room was half writing office and half fiber art studio. (At one point in my life, I was a professional fiber artist who made her income from commissions and sales of her creations.) The fiber art studio was well-organized with shelves full of baskets and boxes of spinning fibers, yarns, quilting fabrics, spindles, a sewing machine table, a cutting table, a quilting frame, two spinning wheels, several small looms, while downstairs in the living room sat a large floor loom in place of a couch. The office had a small antique desk with drawers used as a computer and printer desk set at right angles to a huge, sturdy cherry dining table used as my main desk. It also had a wheeled office-supply cart, two large bulletin boards, two metal file cabinets, many large bookcases, stuffed full of books and overflowing the room to range throughout the house. Off in one corner sat an old exercycle that I could use for a break from writing or sewing or weaving. I loved this room.
I have always had a problem with keeping a space all to myself. Most wives and mothers will identify with this, I think. Our children and husbands want our attention. They want to be where we are. And so, too often, when I had carved a little space out just for myself, my husband and children eventually, bit by bit, encroached on it until it was no longer mine. But when I set up this workroom, I was ruthless. Children were grown, and my husband had promised to stay in his own, even larger, office across the hall. And it worked for six books.
Then, breast cancer invaded my life. At the very same time, my youngest son moved back home after getting his Ph.D. in Iowa. He moved into part of my husband’s office, and my husband had to move many things over to my office where he threw them on my big desk—“only for the moment.” It was a very good thing that my son came home to live with us during this time since he was able to take part of the caregiving load off my husband. But he brought all the belongings that had furnished a large two-bedroom apartment in Iowa City. Much of it wound up added to the pile on my big desk. My son moved my computer and replaced it with his own on the computer desk, as he began his desperate job search. I wasn’t using it at the time since I was in the middle of my own desperate battle.
Somewhere during that time—I’m not sure when—my son broke my comfortable, over-twenty-year-old desk chair, and the combined weight of all the “stuff” piled on it broke my big dining-room-table desk in half, split right down the middle. Eventually, I grew stronger and needed to go back to work, but my lovely workroom had been destroyed. The things piled in the room were much too heavy for me to pick up or carry (probably why the desk gave up the ghost under their weight). My son was. by this time, adjunct teaching full-time at a university an hour’s drive away from our house plus the online classes he’d committed to teach before that job came open, but he said he’d get me a new office chair and a new desk and fix up my workroom when the semester was over. However, he was hired as permanent full-time faculty at that university in that other town and immediately put in charge of some key aspects of their accreditation, which was imminent. He had to move down there immediately so he could work seven twelve-to-fourteen-hour days a week for over a month. My trashed workroom stayed unusable. I wrote two more books and most of a third on a laptop in my recliner, not an ideal situation.
Now, for Christmas, my husband and sons are cleaning all the heavy mess out of my workroom, giving me a new office chair, and repairing my great old desk (my choice over a new one because it was such a wonderful workspace). I am looking forward to the new year in my comfortable, organized workroom where everything is within reach, and I can switch when I’m stuck in my writing to some fiber art project, which always shakes loose the solutions I need in my novels.
Virginia Woolf was right. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Thanks, Margaret! It's time for you, as well. Virginia was right.
Debra, you're so right! It is just what the doctor and the muse ordered. Happy holidays to you--and to everyone else, as well!
Thank you, Judith! Enjoy the holidays with all of your new books. I recommended your novel to one of my developmental editing clients recently.
Yes, Kaye, it is lovely. I'm so looking forward to getting this workroom back in functional order. Merry Christmas to you, too!
Mary, you're so right! I've often asked for help with some big project around the house, especially in later years as my health and strength have waned, but my boys would rather give me things. They're very generous. My oldest has given me for Christmas a freezer when I wanted to replace my old one and a washing machine when I needed that, and my youngest totally surprised me with a big-screen TV and a machine to run Netflix (which he also gave me for a year) for my birthday a couple of months ago--because he had seen how much his helped me when I had bad nights during the cancer surgeries and broken wrist and decided I needed one. But household projects, usually not. I think it's a time thing. They both find it easier to find money than time. So I'm really thrilled that they're doing this.