A Room of Your Own

I was very moved by Maria Cotera’s interview on Writer To Writer.  I was disappointed to have to miss the event in person, but am so glad I got to listen to the podcast.

There were many part’s of Maria’s story that I really learned from and enjoyed.  I loved the way she addressed the changing modes of writing, and that in response we must change the way we think about writing.  The hottest writing is happening online through modes like twitter and blogging.  It was helpful to hear how much she loved blogging, since we’ve been doing so much blogging recently.  She explained that it forces you to write for a large audience and to write often.  In addition, she emphasized the fact that in blogging, you’re not writing for an audience of specialists.  So, you can accept that you’re in a transitional process and let your fear of the public reading your writing fade.  This was important for me to hear.

My favorite part was Maria’s story of the first time she witnessed writing.  The image of a Chicana feminist woman taking her children to McDonalds to play on the play space while she wrote books by hand stuck with me long after listening to the podcast.  I found it remarkable that her mother wrote without gaining any fame or remuneration.  She was self published and created her own knowledge, believing in the importance of her voice and cause even without reassurance from anyone else.  Upon hearing her tell this story, I realized that I had never really thought about the first time I witnessed writing.  I wondered why this isn’t something we talk about more.  Surely, for all of us who love to write, that first exposure to writing left a mark on us and, perhaps without our knowledge, planted a seed that eventually grew into a passion for stringing together words into a piece of art.

For me, my first exposure to writing was through my dad.  As a little girl, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep after the September 11 terrorist attacks.  I think I realized for the first time that we aren’t indestructible.  I became afraid of what could happen to me and the ones I loved, and couldn’t sleep most nights.  So, my dad began telling me stories about a little boy named Friedrich, a painter who saw and painted the best in people…sometimes things even they couldn’t see in themselves.  I was mesmerized by his stories, by the way his words created characters and thrilling suspense and endings that made your heart swell with hope and joy.  As his captive and insomniatic audience, I watched his process of writing and felt its power.  Perhaps that’s what gave me such a love for words and writing.

Maria used a quote of Virginia Woolf’s that I loved: “A woman must have a room of her own if she wishes to write.”  Maria talked about how that room is not only literal, but also metaphorical.  How do we find time and space in our lives to write?  How, in a time of endless demands and pressures, do we find room to write for our own joy?

Again, I thought of my dad.  His literal room was a bit unconventional.  I remember sitting on our front porch, looking out over the outline of the Blue Ridge mountains fading into the smoky dusk’s light.  He would smoke a pipe and write notes in a leather notebook.  He has the perfect literal room to write.  Yet, he doesn’t have the metaphorical room.  Yet, he talks now of how he always wanted to be a writer but never had the time to truly do it.  With working enough to send a kid to a $56,000 a year university and another to a state university, it’s not hard for me to understand why he doesn’t have time to write.  But, my hope for him, reignited by Maria’s story about her mother, is that he can find a metaphorical room as spacious and peace-filled as his literal room.  After hearing Maria’s words, I hope we can all find that rom.


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