Virginia Woolf wrote that in order to pursue literature a woman needed finances and a room of her own. Not that I have presumptions towards literature, but feelings of self-righteousness on behalf of Jane Austen, who is reported to have hidden her WIP under letters whenever callers came into the drawing-room, sometimes plague me. There is another example of injustice regarding a female literary icon who could only write at her father’s desk when, of course, her was not using it. I know this because it’s in one of my books The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. However this book is in storage. It has been for the last six months. Also in storage is Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde and an invaluable, if somewhat cumbersome tome on Regency fashions, furniture and architecture.
Why, may you ask have I banished such dear friends to a container? Well, they were only supposed to be in there for two months. My boyfriend and I moved out of our damp ridden flat and into his father’s house on the presumption that now we could afford to buy a place we’d only be there until just after Christmas. Six month’s later the seller’s solicitors are moving at the speed of slime and I’m getting increasingly twitchy because I can’t remember what an Oriental neck cloth looks like.
Add to this the fact that I am living in the bedroom my boyfriend grew up in, the room that is full of all the paraphernalia he has accumulated throughout teenager hood. My stuff, the bits fortunate enough to escape storage, are crammed in the bed side cabinet or in bags between the bed and the radiator. It is his room, his father’s house and despite reminding myself daily that there are worse domestic situations to be in, claustrophobia has set in. I always thought I could write anywhere; surely location doesn’t matter because all I needed is my lap top and my imagination. Writing is my salvation, my down time and what makes me happy, surely it shouldn’t be bound by something so menial as the fact the only desk available is the domain of a large wooden lion, a clutter of toiletries and, dear god, a mirror which means I am constantly making eye contact with myself and getting drawn into conversations regarding how best to use a semi-colon. Suffice to say I now keep a sheet handy.
I have never believed Virginia Woolf more than I do so now. However I’m finding the it’s the head space that automatically goes with the physical space that I miss the most. It’s very hard to set boundaries in a house where two people are used to living together, and have their own set routine for doing things. It’s very hard to keep the bedroom light on past ten at night when your boyfriend needs to go to sleep after being knackered out after a London commute, but it is equally hard to go downstairs and focus in the living room with the TV blaring. It’s really hard to carve out a chink of time and space that is mine, free from other obligations and processes that I feel I have no control over because, despite the fact it has been six months, I am still a guest.
So, I stay late at work and write there. I charge up my lap top and take it down to the library at weekends. I steal fragments of time before my boyfriend and his father get home from work and hope that they don’t notice that it’s at the expense of the washing up or the fact that when it’s my turn to cook pasta is always on the menu. I cry, a bit, sometimes a lot. And I hope that they don’t notice that either. The important thing is that I am still writing, albeit in desperate fragmented chunks. . Hopefully, next month, I’ll start putting them back together.
In the mean time I’m happy, and a little bit afraid, that I finally made it this month. Check out The Insecure Writer’s Support Group at http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-insecure-writers-support-group.html. I’m over there now to check that I’m actually still on the list.