Eighty-five years after its publication, Virginia Woolf’s book-length essay A Room of One’s Own continues to inspire women and offer a framework for confronting contemporary challenges. The evidence of this continued influence comes in the form of a recent article about women as writers.
In “Writers, Money, and the Economy: Why Time Is the 21st Century’s ‘Room of One’s Own’” published at Flavorwire.com, Sarah Seltzer writes about the barriers contemporary writers (and particularly women writers) face, while making several allusions to A Room of One’s Own. But while Woolf identified money and space as necessities for women writers, as evidenced in her famous line, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Seltzer asserts that time is the new “room of one’s own.” From the article:
Without a doubt, time to create and dream is the “room of one’s own” of the 21st century. And there’s a sacred myth of pursuing any art form, that contains some truths in a time-strapped world: You do have to give something up, or cut back. Sometimes it’s a career of your own, or financial independence vis-a-vis your life partner, or sleep, or time with family and friends. Sometimes it’s stability, sometimes it’s the inspiration that comes from instability. So yes, an artistic pursuit works well when there’s someone else near you filling in the gaps of whatever it is you give up, as sort of mini collective enterprise of two.
Although she highlights lack of time as the major barrier to writing, Seltzer also states that financial support systems are so necessary for writers to succeed that many writers are “sponsored” by spouses who generate the family income. The author references Leonard Woolf as Virginia’s support system, and wonders if modern women can pursue their creativity:
But as someone said on Twitter, it’s also sort of sad to think that these little units of two are orbiting around in space by themselves, embarking on the collectivist mission of creating art and supporting an artist in an indifferent world. Not everyone can find a Vera Nabokov or a Leonard Woolf, nor should they. What if both spouses have creative ambitions? At least in my mind, this strain of thought comes down to the exact same problem as the discussion we have about balancing family and work these days: today’s families are so, so alone. Someone has to sacrifice, the common line goes. We (particularly women) can’t have it all.
Read the full article here.