How Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" Inspired Me to Become a Writer

You would be hard-pressed to find any writer who does not attribute their inspiration to another writer. For me, my inspiration is, and has always been, Virginia Woolf. If I had to pin down a specific piece of Woolf that inspired me to be a writer, I would effortlessly say her 1929 essay, A Room of One's Own.

Although Virginia Woolf was a brilliant novelist, who contributed to the Modernist movement that followed the stodgy Victorian era of England in the early 1900's, and she, along with other Modernist writers, introduced the steam-of-consciousnes style, she is arguably most notable for her contributions to feminist rhetoric. In A Room of One's Own, an essay she wrote for lectures she gave at Newnham and Girton colleges at Cambridge, Woolf examines the woman writer, and gives her most famous assertion that in order for a woman to be a successful writer, she must have money and a room of her own.

A Room of One's Own has inspired me as a writer in ways I cannot convey with pen or keyboard. As a student of rhetoric and composition in college, I learned that you cannot properly convey another person's genius -- only your own -- so on that note, I'll leave you with Woolf's call to the pen, the closing to A Room of One's Own, a passage that still inspires me and gives me chills to this day:

"I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee's life of the poet. She died young -- alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so -- I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not the little separate lives which we live as individuals- and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton's bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while." (Woolf, A Room of One's Own)


Sources
A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf. 1929. Harcourt, Inc. London.


Published by Michelle Croy

Michelle is an English teacher by day and a freelance writer by night. Her work can be found on Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, and Yahoo! Voices.  View profile

4 Comments

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  • Davida Chazan 6/8/2013

    Interesting choice. Thanks.

  • Davida Chazan 6/8/2013

    Interesting choice.

  • R. Salley 3/8/2012

    I can see why you were inspired, thanks!

  • Hajar Mulder 3/7/2012

    'that in order for a woman to be a successful writer, she must have money and a room of her own'

    This is true. Men are, or were at least, more often supported by income from a job. More often men wrote on behalf of their jobs, an opportunity women lacked. To be a writer takes time. Lots of it and at the expense of office hours.
    @HM

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