Women and Fiction and Me
December 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’m going to be all scholarlicious today and talk about something that’s been on my mind. There was an album I was listening to recently (Florence and the Machine) that brought Virgina Woolf to mind, and with all the Twitter discussions on publishing, I was drawn to my copy of A Room of One’s Own. I picked it up while unpacking my books in my new loft and was stuck, once again, by how she can put words together in a magical way. Her style is flawless; that’s why she’s Virgina Woolf. Her feminist essay strikes me differently every time I read it. This time I was thinking about the state of Women and Fiction today, in light of where publishing is.
Publishing is wide open now and that means different things to everyone. I know that it’s something that propelled me to buckle down and write. The Big Thing that was always a monkey on my back was the fact that I could spend so much time writing something and it would never be read, stored away in my cedar chest with all my other writing. (I’m not an optimistic person.) With self-publishing on e-readers though, there’s the tiny glimmer of hope that someone somewhere someday will maybe read what I wrote and may even get some enjoyment out of it. For me, that is something extraordinary.
And what is the state of women today? Well, we have more options than we’ve ever had also. Even though there’s still a stigma surrounding unwed, childless women, it’s becoming less and less unusual and even celebrated. Or we can have twenty kids and a reality show or be the Octo-mom. Sure, there are still societal expectations for women, but the acceptable range for variance is much wider than it was 50 years ago, or even 20. Woolf predicted that in 100 years (or 2029) women would be allowed to participate in every activity once denied them. I think we’re there, aren’t we?
But there is a flip side to that coin. There’s the problem of spreading oneself too thin. The inclination is for women to be everything and do it all. Should we really get everything we want? I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I have an old cedar chest full of notebooks that I’ve scribbled in for 20 years. There are other things I wanted also though. I wanted to travel and help people, so I joined Peace Corps and I wanted to study literature, and I wanted to start a family. Writing always took a back seat.
Now of all times I feel ready and motivated and have kept that course. (I couldn’t have gotten serious when I had 12 hours a day to sit and stare at my concrete house in Peace Corps?) Whatever it took to get me serious, I’m just going to take it. But I’m seeing that there are many things competing for my attention. My life right now isn’t conducive to being a prolific writer. “You cannot it seems let children run about the streets” as Woolf puts it. And that’s fine. Better than fine. I am smitten with my two little human beings. They inspire me and teach me and I know that my life is exactly what it should be with them in it.
So I will take the stolen moments, the rare times of quiet when both babies are napping. “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anyone but oneself. We are all going to heaven and Vandyck is of the company.” I’ll quit being envious of people word-sprinting, because I have to squeeze a few minutes here and there at a moments notice and for me, trying to put down words is like drawing blood from a collapsed vein. (Something Peace Corps taught me all about.) My time has just began. I’m not like Keats: dying from tuberculosis. (Wasn’t it something like that?) And as for the state of Women and Fiction, I think that the demons we have to wrestle now are mostly inside ourselves. What do we really want in life and what are we willing to sacrifice to have it? There’s nothing stopping us.