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Dear Virginia Woolf, You Suck!

alec vanderboom

Dear Virginia Woolf,

You suck! Your prose is luminous. Your story archs are vivid. Your character descriptions are delightful.

You suck because you wrote an essay called "A Room of One's Own" that theorized that there were so few female voices in English Literature because women are basically overburdened with housework, childcare, and social expectation, so they lack a "room of one's own in which to write."

As a naive college student, I took your words too closely to heart. I thought that there was a harsh division between being a gifted "writer" and being a happy "mother". I couldn't tell you that motherhood was firmly in my heart at age 19, but I could say with firmness "Well, who wants to live shut up in a private study all day with messy ink stains on her index finger? I think I'll go to Law School instead. I want to be engaged with the world outside my own head."

It was like you (and the feminist teachers that taught you to young readers like me) were saying "If you want to write seriously, you've got to organize your life in a way that lets you write." You have to "sacrifice for your art." You have to organize your life around your writing--so nothing messy like marriage, or kids, or life in a small house that lacks a study, a library, and space for a writer's retreat out back.

As a female writer who lives in an 800 square foot home with five small children, I want to say the requiring a "private room in which to write" as a prerequisite for starting a writing life is hogwash.

The hardest part about writing is taking up the fear of humiliation. Once something is written, it's substantial. It's firm. It has your name attached to it. Writing can be met with controversy or cheers. Writing means that you risk being "unliked" on Facebook or trolled in your blog comments, or rejected by an editor.

The biggest handicap we female writers face is that most girls "like to be liked."

So, I'm officially resigning from the popularity club. I'm officially resigning from the "my college English professors think my life needs to look like X in order to write the good stuff. I want to write. I want to live. I want to start finding my own "voice" in speech, in prayer, in mothering, in writing,and  in life. To reach my goals, I will no longer pretend life will get easier once I'm rich enough to afford a larger house with a private study.

Your friend,

Abigail B.