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22 September 2019

Posted by Hazel Orriss

All the women I have been

How did the So:Write women spend their summer? For such a varied group of writers we found that some common themes emerged… we decorated, we moved house, we purchased new writing desks, we moved existing writing desks, we reclaimed old desks and, you get the picture. We were all about our space, specifically, the spaces we use to write and work. 

I doubt Virginia Woolf has ever been described as the elephant in the room, but any discussion involving women and their writing spaces has to acknowledge her famous essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ and the idea that

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

The constraints of running a home, the need to work and the constant pressure to prioritise the needs of others above oneself all conspire to act against the creative process. In short, we must assert ourselves if we are to take this whole writing malarky seriously. Buy the desk, claim the space and make it your own. Easy to say, isn’t it? 

The concerns of the female writer do not end with the feet and inches we covet in the physical world, either. There is a gulf of emotion that must be dealt with when we consider the papers and notebooks we leave behind for others to read. What right do we have to leave these words on a page, words that may be cathartic, incendiary, brutal and maybe, just maybe, not really about you anyway. But who would know,and without the author’s explanation, the words may take on a ghastly life of their own. Would you be worried if someone read your ‘shitty first drafts’ and diary entries? Would you read the notebooks and diaries of a departed relative, knowing that you may recognise yourself in their words? You might consider the process of Swedish death cleaning* - the act of getting your affairs in order before the final chapter ends, as it were. It’s a tough call. Personally, I am with group member Rhiannon who described the writing we leave behind as evidence of “the women we have been.” Your childhood diary with a little gold lock, the ring-bound notebooks of your university years, the swanky Smythson you bought to celebrate that promotion and the tatty A4 lined books you now buy during the grocery shop in Tesco. They are all you, every single one of you. 

It is strange how some sessions take unexpected turns, and this workshop was no exception. We were drawn back time and again to thoughts of the space we take up in the world, so much so that Joanna tasked us to write about our desks/writing spaces for the next So:Write session. Fancy joining us? The homework is not obligatory and you’ll find us a very friendly bunch. We’ll be meeting again at Southampton Central Library on Saturday 21st September (10.15 - 12.15) and at The Art House on Thursday 3rd October (11.15 - 1.15pm). 

*SO:Write workshop discussions tend to be quite varied. This is an understatement!


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