When asked what one needs in order to write, Virginia Wolf said she needed “500 pounds and a room of my own.”
What do you think she meant? Was she saying that she needed exactly “500 pounds” as money in her day was measured? I do not think so. I think she was saying that she needed an income comfortable enough that the basic necessities of life were covered. Enough money that she did not have to worry where her next meal was coming from, or wonder if she could pay the rent. After all if I am always hungry and worried that I may be thrown out into the street and be homeless at anytime, I’m not going to be able to focus on similes and metaphors.
I believe “A room of my own” could mean a whole house or just a small corner of a room. It doesn’t matter. Many years ago I was sorting boxes of old magazines I wanted to keep for reference, into order by date of issue. I had so many magazines that I had to spread them out on the living room floor. It was the only space large enough. I’d spent an entire afternoon lining them up into rows and moving them from one area of a row to another as I worked through many years and months of dates. I was about halfway through when I had to stop to get dinner for my family.
When the evening dishes were finally done and the kitchen back in order I returned to the living room to resume my sorting. My magazines had been gathered up and thrown into a huge heap in the corner of the room. Nobody would admit to the deed, but I knew then the living room was not “my room.”
In my room or my own space I can spread out my projects and nobody will bother them. I can lay my papers and books on a table or on the floor if I wish and leave them there all strung out and in disarray. If this is truly “my own room” when I come back my papers will be exactly where I left them. Nothing will be touched. That I believe is what she means by “A room of my own.”
I recently staked out a room of my own from vacated rental space that the tenant no longer wanted. It is 20 feet by 22 feet with a huge storage area. It is in an area where I do not think I will be able to re-rent it easily, So, it is mine.
In my room I will put my favorite books, a library table, a music maker of some sort, my computer and printer, plenty of reference books, a big easy chair or recliner, reading lamp, coffee table, inspirational pictures on the wall, and enough shelves in my storage area to hold paper, ink supplies, glue, staples, paper clips, pencils, notebooks, paper cutters, laminating machines. I want plenty of daylight and maybe even a dorm sized refrigerator and microwave for snacks. The room will be comfortable enough that I will want to spend time there.
Who knows I may even store some folding chairs in the closet for friends or students, in case I decide to invite someone over or host a seminar in my space.
Right now I am measuring for carpet and plan to put a curse on any who disturbs my space. There will be an amulet above the door.
Dixie Thomas Reale