A Room of One’s Own (My 2015 InCoWriMo 4 of 28)

 

Hello C,

Greetings from Australia. Since I started InCoWriMo at the beginning of this month, this is the first time I find it difficult to pen a letter. You will have to pardon me if my words below are not very coherent.

Today (Wednesday) I spent the whole day cooking, in preparation for a party on Saturday. I made chicken sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and chicken dumplings (we love chicken in this house), and will make more dishes tomorrow and the day after that.

As a writer and translator who works in a home-office, I have no excuse to splash money outside of the house for the simple pleasure of dining and wining. Throughout the years I have developed quite a repertoire, and can easily cook for a crowd of up to 40 people, in either Chinese or Western style. No trouble. It only costs me plenty of time. To borrow a common Chinese saying, “Even the most talented housewife cannot cook without time.” (The original saying involves rice.)

However, time is expensive, and it is the only thing that once lost will never come back. My work suffers greatly as I spend time cooking, for even though I am happy to cook, I cannot do writing or translation at the same time. I can hardly think – my mind gets lost as I wander among the stove, the oven, the sink, the fridge and the pantry. My head becomes increasingly empty as my hands get busy.

Perhaps this is why a lot of female writers support the view that women need to have “a room of their own”. I suspect these words, first expressed by Virginia Woolf in 1929 in a lecture titled “A Room of One’s Own”, do not merely indicate a physical space in real life where women can be alone and not bothered by house affairs. More than that, I think the “room” here conveys a sense of intellectual independence and solitude that women have been seeking since the beginning of time. A woman needs to be eccentric, selfish, stubborn and even arrogant from time to time, if only in this aspect of her life. It helps her to recognize her values as a person.

Woolf was asked to speak about women and fiction. In her words: “This might mean women and what they are like, or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them, or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together.” Considering the very last possibility, she came up with this personal opinion:

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that…leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”

I find it interesting that people, particularly women, rarely quote the second half of this sentence. Indeed, if a woman does not know herself, intellectually, then neither a room of her own nor money can help her find out where she stands in literary and other senses.

If a woman does not have the courage to discover and pursue what she really wants, intellectually, then I suspect no amount of feminism can help to solve her problems in life. On the contrary, if a woman understands who she is and what she wants to do for her future, then I am sure no amount of sexism can hinder her success.

I would like to know what you think. Do you have room of your own?

Yours Sincerely,

C.

 

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