The wild laughter of the children playing below the window distracted Virginia as she sat at the desk bent over her prose. She continued as best she could, hoping their cavorting would lead them to the other side of the courtyard to play their games of knights and dueling, the youngest of the girls finely playing the parts of “lady in distress” with their shrieks of fear and delight.
She rose from the desk and went over to the expansive bookshelf, choosing a title containing some of the great works of Shakespeare himself. She sat back down and opened the volume. Immediately, and as usual, she found herself lost in his words. Such brilliant prose, such feeling and such insight wrapped into each line, blending together until they speared the heart with the precision of a sharp blade. Could she ever hope to move someone as he did, to ignite such emotion from the reader with mere printed words?
The door opened slowly. Virginia sighed and looked up, unsurprised at this intrusion. The only surprise was that it had not come sooner.
“Yes, Miriam?” she asked the young girl standing in the doorframe.
“Pardon me, but Cookie would like to know if Roasted Pheasant with Burberry Sauce and Corn Mash Pudding would be fitting for the dinner tonight?” she asked, barely looking at her mistress.
“Yes, yes...” Virginia replied. “Now be on.”
She sat down again at the desk and picked up her pen. She tapped it against her bottom lip for a moment before smiling as a grand thought occurred. Before she could put pen to paper, her husband swept through the door and into the room.
“My dear, I have had the grandest hunt. The dogs were in best form and the horses, oh, the horses were absolutely implausible in their footing. The foxes were well done in today.” he boasted, his voice booming with pride. Virginia sat with a polite smile painted upon her face, hands clasped demurely in her lap. Blessedly, upon remembrance of those he had failed to enlighten with the tales of his hunting prowess along the way, he left Virginia alone. She turned back to the paper and picked up the pen. She exerted herself greatly but to no avail. The colorful prose in her mind had faded away, and she so close to creating her masterpiece.
She slammed the pen down and arose from her chair. She went to the window and leaned out, looking over the courtyard as the children’s play brought them ever closer. She fell slowly to her knees, the yards of her silk dress crumpling under her. In anger and despair, she thought of how easily the words must have come to Mr. Shakespeare; he had not the interruptions that she must endure. “When men resolve to become writers, it is with odd reverence that they are regarded. They are not bothered with children at play, or the need of their council as to mundane matters such as dinner. They are allowed to write to their hearts content. Oh, but not so for a woman...” she thought bitterly.
“If Shakespeare himself had a gifted sister who desired to pen great dramas and tragedies, she could have only hoped to enlighten him with the expressions in her mind and have him gain fame from them.” Bitterness and anger gave way to depression, which gave birth to calmness, which crossed over to burgeoning feelings of tranquility and then surprisingly a thrill of exhilaration shot through her. “Why, that’s exactly it!”
Virginia Woolf sat at her desk and wrote the first of a collection of stories which she named “A Room of One’s Own”, and of which the most powerful story, “Shakespeare’s Sister”, was her own truth.
And that, my friends, is the secret of writing.
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