Virginia Woolf once famously insisted that in order to write fiction, a woman needed money and a room of her own.
Eleven years ago this May, that’s exactly what I got: a room of my own.
I’d just completed my master’s, and in the midst of all my fellow classmates making plans to move on to PhD programs or interviewing for full-time employment, I was taking my mom up on her offer. “Let me feed you,” she said, “and you can write.” It was the only thing I’d ever wanted to do, after all—and there was no way I was going to pass up such an incredible opportunity.
A couple cans of paint and a new desk later, I had it—my own office, in the former guest bedroom of my childhood home. It wasn’t incredibly high-tech, in the beginning: I had a dinosaur of a computer, so old it didn’t even have a modem. And I had a phone, and a MailStation where I could send emails (no attachments). And a coffee maker. And that pretty much did it for the electronics.
But what I did have was time. All the time I needed. And that turned out to be a good thing, indeed…
I’d banked on two years. Two years tops to get started. Two years came and went. So did three. And four. Five.
Each spring, as my alma mater’s graduation day made the local news, I’d wind up taking stock of how far I’d come: I’d look back on the year’s submissions. I’d remind myself of all the new work I’d written. I’d show myself the list of books (either partials or complete manuscripts) currently being considered by publishing houses or agents.
Six springs went by. Seven.
Finally, finally, finally, on that eighth spring after my graduation, I had a book in development. A book in development! That eighth spring, as I tuned into the news and watched flashes of MSU’s commencement, I thought about that twenty-four-year-old who’d just gotten her master’s, who’d just written a creative thesis, who’d published a few shorter pieces and was convinced that writing and publishing a novel would be a breeze. I thought about how much she had to grow as a writer before selling her first book.
The thing is, if I hadn’t had the ability to devote full-time, seven-day-a-week attention to my writing, I know it would have taken twenty years or more to get that first acceptance…if ever. (That “if ever” are the two scariest words in the English language…) I had so far to go, and so much to learn…I just don’t think I ever would have gotten there without that room of my own, and the freedom from financial concerns.
This spring—and every spring hereafter—with multiple books on store shelves, I know I’ll take more than just a few moments to be grateful for the most incredible gift I’ve ever (and without a doubt, will ever) receive: the simple gift of time.