Something’s not quite right about the way I’m reading, because I keep wanting to give everything 5 stars on Goodreads. I’ll figure that out one day I’m sure, but for now the book I would like to wax hortatory about is A Room of One’s Own. Surprise, surprise…

My thoughts are not yet fully formed but what I do know is that – this book did not strike a chord with me so much as a woman. After all, the time has come where women can seize “the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think” …can “escape a little from the common sitting-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”. We can earn income, we can travel, we can have individualistic ambitions and interests completely aside from childbearing and housekeeping. I say can seize rather than have the freedom because I know it’s not necessarily true for every woman across the globe, or Asia, or the country, or within my 10km radius. There are women who still have to face inhibiting expectations, whether self or externally imposed, or a reluctant compromise of both. Whether conscious or unconscious.

I’m not implying that all these women are unhappy of course –  we all make choices in life, and sometimes we put one competing love above the other, and come to terms with that. And also it is easier to find some sort of tolerable balance between family vs. me!me!me! nowadays (what would we do without baby intercoms). The point is, there is, from my personal observations at least, a lot more choice and subjectivity than there used to be. It is more possible to find and choose a supportive partner. There are more education and job opportunities for the taking. We earn more income that we used to. There are more people everywhere on your side now should you…#leanin. If a boy tells me “Wow, you’re so aggressive for a girl!”, provided it’s not a life-endangering circumstance, I can totally flip him off. The collective consciousness has changed from a hundred years ago. In any case, some studies of gender relations in Asia will tell you that women in Asia have always been more dominant than we think. Only that, scrutinised through Western lenses where authority is recognised if formalised and visible, for instance, a job title with big grand capital letters (read: men), the role of Asian women shrink in comparison.

So I’m not so caught up with the idea that Virginia Woolf is telling me, as a woman, to free myself of the shackles that imprison and permeate my mind, but rather me, as a writer and as a living, growing, thinking being.

I hear that I should stop being afraid of what people think of my views as long as I have done my homework. By homework I mean, at the very least, thinking things through logically and thoroughly (so many th’s) and recognising where my information and perspective is limited. And where I should shut up and take an opinion and criticism. I don’t mean read a thousand journals and books – although that is the dream, and I swear I am trying to do that but ugh there is just never enough time goshdangit I have all these historical romance novels to finish!!!!

As an aspiring writerly person thing, I hear that I should stop worrying that the “professionals” and “serious writers” and “people who did a degree in Literature and English” will think I am crap. I should stop trying to prove myself and being so focused on wanting everyone to think my writing is awesome even before I begin. It’s hard. I can totally hear the clink of the shackles as I write this, in fact. And what’s that other sound? The sweet, enticing music of …Facebook likes?

What I should do is to keep working hard. I must challenge my own head, allow “Thought – to call it by a prouder name than it deserved –” to “let its line down into the stream. … until – you know the little tug – the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line”. That line must go down as deep (in German – tief! Yay I remember!) as possible and then I must lay the fish out, see and acknowledge how small and insignificant it is…and then “put back into the water so that it may grow fatter and be one day worth cooking and eating”, rather than to send my fish into hiding forever or hang the poor skinny fish out to dry. Good writers don’t stop at the skinny fish. I want to be the kind that is “not a skimmer of surfaces merely, but had looked beneath into the depths” and “could build up out of the fleeting and the personal the lasting edifice which remains unthrown.”

And most of all, ….well I shall stop here. I’ll let Virginia Woolf do all the talking now because she’s just super amazing and nobody says it as beautifully (visually and emotionally) as she does, after the jump:

 

“ So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison”

“Therefore I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast. By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream

“What is meant by ‘reality’? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable – now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech – and then there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Piccadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent….Now the writer, as I think, has the chance to live more than other people in the presence of this reality. It is his business to find it and collect it and communicate it to the rest of us. ”

“I should implore you to remember your responsibilities, to be higher, more spiritual; I should remind you how much depends upon you, and what an influence you can exert upon the future. But those exhortations can safely, I think, be left to the other sex, who will put them, and indeed have put them, with far greater eloquence than I can compass. When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.”

And here are other quotes that were just pure bliss:

 

“The very reason why that poetry excites one to such abandonment, such rapture, is that it celebrates some feeling that one used to have (at luncheon parties before the war perhaps), so that one responds easily, familiarly, without troubling to check the feeling, or to compare it with any that one has now.”

“The sight of that abrupt and truncated animal padding softly across the quadrangle changed by some fluke of the subconscious intelligence the emotional light for me. It was as if someone had let fall a shade. Perhaps the excellent hock was relinquishing its hold. Certainly, as I watched the Manx cat pause in the middle of the lawn as if it too questioned the universe, something seemed lacking, something seemed different. But what was lacking, what was different, I asked myself, listening to the talk?”

“A thousand stars were flashing across the blue wastes of the sky. One seemed alone with an inscrutable society. All human beings were laid asleep – prone, horizontal, dumb. ”

This is Jane Eyre, and so doesn’t count, but still: “Nobody knows how many rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth”

 

 

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