Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Being a Woman Writer: An Open Letter to Virginia Woolf

Dear Virginia [comma, space, enter, I write]

Regarding the issue of being a woman writer, [pause, fingers poised over keyboard]

I am so screwed. [Appropriateness of using profanity with dead literary legend? Unknown.]

I am all asunder. [??]

It’s not easy, that’s all I’m saying.

Not only do I not have a room of my own (I’m typing this perched on the King size bed, legs tucked, computer leaning against my pelvic bone and the deep grooved C-section scar that seems made to help balance a laptop), but the room I do have is stuffed to the brim with:

1. books [nonnegotiable]
2. dressers [necessary]
3. a drying rack draped crookedly with a red and yellow kitchen tablecloth.
4. toys that are not mine
5. a husband that is
6. [most distracting] endless baskets of unfolded laundry

The heaps of tumultuous clothing whine and tantrum at me, but I force myself to ignore them [the parenting guides say you shouldn't reward bad behavior]. To them, I am that very bad mother in the grocery line, at the park, on the street, who is able to look smoothly away even when a small, lost voice begs her to come make everything tidy again. But I know it’s a temporary respite; I can’t ignore them forever. Already my accursed third floor washing machine is swooshing and bucking in its closet down the hall, promising the birth of more chaos into this room which is where I write.

I have to write quickly, Virginia, before these pebbles I have been rolling around in my mouth all day, repeating and reciting and reforming, lose their nuance and their groove, and smooth over, becoming blank faced and heavy. By tomorrow these words will become inarticulate stones in my pockets, dragging me down into distraction, so that I will snap unnecessarily at my children, break my own rules about junk food snacking to keep them quiet, and most shockingly, turn on the television just because they ask, as I desperately scribble with pen, pencil, crayon — anything I can find — on the back of grocery receipts, cell phone bills, and yellow sticky pads which I’ve taken to keeping all around the house just for this purpose. I will write feverishly until my hand aches and still, like one of those dreams where your leaden feet cannot outrun the hungry wolves, the phrases slip through my fingers, sliding off the page into puddles on the floor, leaving me drowning and bereft.

Tonight, I’m losing the battle before I’ve begun. Soon my son will start to cough, cough, cough, the sound echoing with gaps through my fancy baby monitor that circulates through three separate stations even though I only have two children. Cough, static, static, cough. I will try and coax him to drink a little water from a sports bottle. Even in sleep he will protest at a sippy cup – “I’m a big boy.” But I know if I leave a real cup of water by his bed, it will spill and soak the bedclothes like the day I delivered him, when my water broke, as if in the movies — whoosh — all over everything, and then this mother-writer was born.

To read the rest of this essay please visit Victoria M. Johnson's Creative Spaces Blog Series!

This essay was originally published at Literary Mama 

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