Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Space To Write - Having A Room Of One's Own

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


Virginia Woolf famously wrote in her essay "A Room Of One's Own" that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction". While that premise has been criticized most notably by Alice Walker for not recognizing class and women of color, it does provide much insight into the conditions that may be necessary for a woman to have the peace of mind to write in her own space.

When I was 24, I looked for my first apartment and I found one in Laurel, Maryland, equidistant between Baltimore and Washington, D. C. The layout of the apartment as well as the grounds in which it was situated were important to me. I ended up getting a third floor apartment with one bedroom and a den, which was not common in this complex. My balcony faced a lovely courtyard full of trees. I was also directly across from the swimming pool. After I moved in, I used to sit on the balcony after getting home from work at dusk to watch the bats fly around the courtyard. It was a great way to enjoy a glass of wine after a long day and relax in my surroundings.

That den was of vital importance to me because it became my writing room. It also faced the courtyard so I could see the trees from my window. Most mornings and at least for an hour every evening, I sat down at my Brother typewriter and retreated into my own world. I was in a writer's group so I always had something to prepare. I was the sole horror writer in a sea of romance writers, which is ironic considering today I write romances and erotic fiction as well as horror and dark fiction. I never published anything mainly since I had no idea where to send my stories. I merely enjoyed the art of writing and sharing with the group.

I took the lessons I learned from having my own room and money and applied them since. Today, I don't have a writing room but I do have space of my own and the means to write unencumbered because my husband is the primary breadwinner in our household. I'm aware many women do not have that luxury. I'm grateful that I do. Woolf might have underestimated the amount of money a woman needed to have the freedom to write, but I recognize that she's talking about having the freedom to write without having to endlessly worry about day to day troubles such as putting food on the table or paying the electric bill. It's hard to write when your children are going hungry. I’m also aware many women write under such conditions and do a wonderful job at it. I don't earn enough to support myself on my writing. I don't know many writers who do. They need to either have financial support from elsewhere like parents or a spouse or they hold day jobs.

My point is that women somehow need some sort of space where they can go to get in "the zone" to write. We're in the process of moving, and the apartments we're looking at will continue to give me the freedom to write. We live in Rockport, Massachusetts, which is on the Massachusetts coast. I'm a five minute drive to the beach. It's fairly expensive to live here, and I've been looking for a reasonably-priced place that isn't a summer rental that also accepts cats. We did find a gem that would be perfect for us, but it's in a city nearly a half hour away from here. The price and space were very hard to turn down, but we realized we'd give up far too much to move out of the small town we've lived in for 17 years. I'd have to give up my daily walks on the beach with my first mug of coffee for the day. I'd give up drives along the coast. My favorite beach chocolate and ice cream shop. Our favorite family-run eateries. The Fourth of July bonfire on the beach. The lighting of the Christmas tree downtown complete with free cups of hot cocoa. Santa Claus arriving in Rockport harbor on a lobster boat to greet the town for the holiday season. I might have had a room of my own in the house out of town, but I'd have been miserable. I can't write when I'm miserable.

I don't like where we now live. The entire apartment complex is run down and the apartment itself is in dire need of repair. This new place gives us hope. An example of it is pictured above. The grounds are lovely. I need a beautiful view. I would have difficulty feeling inspired with a view of a parking lot to the local supermarket. I can have an outdoor garden to grow my herbs, peppers, and flowers. We might even be able to have a smoker outside. During the warmer months, the patio or deck (depending on whether we get a ground or second floor apartment) will become another room where we will enjoy meals and drinks on lazy days. I can even get a laptop and write outside if I wish.

Having the peace of mind to write is as important as the stories I write. Although I hate where we live now, I am fortunate enough to be in a position to write without disturbance. While I don't have a room of my own, I do have headphones I put on to listen to music while writing. I go inside my head to find the inspiration I need. Once we move to a much nicer place, I will have more freedom and more ease to write. I need that since I've had a bad case of writer's block since January, when my mother and one of my cats died one day apart from each other. I can occasionally write, but not as frequently as I had before January. In fact, I just finished and handed in an erotic romance fantasy story for an anthology. So the drive is still there. It's just hard to come by.

Virginia Woolf was on the right track when she said women need money and a room of their own to write. I've found that room doesn't have to be a physically space for her alone. It can be a state of mind. Many women write while living in dire circumstances such as poverty or a bad marriage, but it is much more difficult for them than it is for a woman with enough money to live comfortably and with support from friends and family. I'm fortunate to have both, and I know that.


  1. I'd love writing space of my own but I set up shop anywhere I can. My laptop on a card table, my tablet on my bed, even my phone on the train...some people plan their weddings on Pinterest, I plan my ideal writing room ;)

  2. I know the feeling, Icy. My current writing space is a TV table and the couch. I need a real desk and a computer chair. But I walk on the beach most mornings, and that makes up for it. I hope you find your ideal writing room someday.