March 14, 2012

A Slightly Desperate Plea for Solitude and a Room of One’s Own. ~ Brenda Golbus

The University of Iowa Libraries

I am operating on less than four hours of sleep in the last 24 hours and less than five hours of alone time for the whole week.

I feel edgy and my skin crawls. I am propped up by spearmint gum, latte caffeine and a couple of new songs on my iPod. I desperately need to go within and tap the spring where ideas live and writing flows.

I sit in the most remote corner of the Quiet Study room in the public library. My phone is on vibrate and the room is silent except for the light clicking of fellow laptop users. I need to create something and finish it. I need a room of my own.

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

                                                                       ~ Virginia Woolf

I’m Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf wrote her famous feministic essay A Room of One’s Own in 1928.  She claims the sky is unveiled when women have an income and a space of their own.  A Room of One’s Own explores the history of women in writing. The sixteenth and seventeenth century’s shelves are sadly void of female authors. Men of the era wrote lovely lines of poetry and literature depicting women as angels, beauties and wise confidantes.


In reality, most women were sold off young to an arranged marriage and expected to bear children until their uteruses sputtered and fell out. No time or space for writing.  For some, there must have been a frustration that made them want to dash their brains out (no doubt some did) but a sense of responsibility prevailed.

It was not until the early 1800s that Jane Austen dared to write a little novel called Sense and Sensibility.  Jane was a rare case in that her family, including brothers and her father, believed in her education. Even so, she wrote in the common sitting room on blotting paper kept hidden from servants and visitors outside her family.  Even Jane Austen had no room of her own.

 At Least Someone’s Gettin’ Some

A scandalous female writer named Frances  Hodgson Burnett did manage to run away in 1898 to a hideaway in the English countryside. She was dodging the far-sighted eye of scrutiny not for her writing but for her divorce and romp with her financial manager.  While at her manor in the countryside, she built walls of brick around an outdoor space where she planted 100s of rose bushes.  She spent full days in the garden room writing, reading and blossoming.  After her return to the states several years later, she wrote a successful novel entitled The Secret Garden.

Surrounded Again

Women are very often surrounded by others, plopped in the center of hustle and bustle.  We are the gatherers, the organizers, the mirrors of all. For these virtues we are rewarded with continuous chaos and little to no solitude. We are the hub, circled by spokes that keep us dizzy from constant motion. Is it too much to ask for an occasional retreat to a bedroom for an hour of reading?

 No Place to Hide

Today a room of our own is a hiding place or an extravagance. My own home, which is of good size for four people, has no room where I can retreat. Even the master bedroom (note the name) is shared and strategically located next to the laundry room, living room and kitchen. It is not a quiet sanctuary. Even my sleep is interrupted because of the comings and goings of others. I feel a sense of kinship with my sisters of history. There is an inner turmoil that feels like rocks in my pockets, weighing me down.

Be at the center of the family or create a separate space to realize my own dreams?

More Than Just a Room

While driving home from my six-hour writing stint at the library, I realize a room of one’s own is more than four walls and a door that belongs to you. It is the ability or space to accomplish something, to spearhead your own project without outside interference.

It is a sense of purpose gained from doing work derived from your own being. I spent hours at the library (definitely not my own room) and feel satisfied with my efforts and ideas. I feel full but not heavy. I am ready to be with others.


Editor: Hayley Samuelson


 Brenda is exquisitely introverted with an insatiable curiosity. Besides a healthy infatuation with her inner life, she is also a consummate lover of learning, beauty, the human condition and the strumming of an acoustic guitar.  Website; http://space2live.net/. Email: [email protected]

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