A Room of My Own: Alice Penfold

A room is far more than four walls.

It is only the combination of physical room (a calm and creative environment to encourage words to emerge) with emotional room (time and space of mind to allow ideas to flourish) that a writer can truly begin to be.

That phrase, ‘A Room of My Own’ inevitably makes me think of Virginia Woolf: her passionate essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (1929) remains one of my main inspirations, as a feminist, a writer and a feminist writer. Her ‘room’ was a cry for women to have the physical space and financial means to pursue writing careers, as well as the metaphorical room to become writers in the context of a patriarchal society.

Although my definition of a writer’s ‘room’ is extends beyond Woolf’s twentieth century context, I still draw inspiration from her magical way with words. Like Woolf, I need a literal room of my own. A designated physical space will not be the same for every writer; many writers (myself included) may write in multiple spaces, from silent desks to chatty coffee shops.

What is essential is that a writer sets aside these locations to give writing a chance to grow away from the pressures and pace of everyday bustle.

Woolf’s inspirational nature imagery, peppered throughout her essay, helps me to understand the more abstract meaning of a room. Writing, Woolf believes, allows us to “dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream Woolf’s “stream”, like the concept of a “room” itself, is both literal and conceptual; we must allow time and space to fully observe every colour and detail of our natural world in order for creativity to fully flow.

A mind extends beyond four walls. A story is like a human; it needs air to breathe and the opportunity to develop. We can wander through the natural world, soak up every sensual detail, before returning to our physical, designated writing locations.

A Room of My Own is a place to physically play with stories and sentences, as well as a metaphorical place, giving the mind time and space to properly see the inspiration of our surroundings, setting aside the distractions of modern life so our writing can blossom. Fiction is, in Woolf’s words, “a spider’s web”: easy to break, hard to make, yet undoubtedly worth the work.

Summer Solstice Writing Competition Winner: Alice Penfold

Alice Penfold. Winner of the Wild Words Summer Solstice Writing Competition 2016

Alice Penfold. Winner of the Wild Words Summer Solstice Writing Competition 2016

I am delighted to have won the summer Wild Words writing competition!

I have always loved creative writing, particularly thinking about how to write different perspectives and how the same characters or settings can be seen in such different ways, depending on the subjectivity of the viewer. In addition, the power that words have to be interpreted in multiple ways has always been at the heart of my writing.

It was whilst reflecting on the impact of homonyms in writing that I was inspired to write ‘Leaves’, a piece drawing on its meaning as both a noun and a verb. I wanted to write an abstract piece reflecting the challenges that change and leaving things behind can bring.

To create my story, I combined my love of word play with my passion for writing in the natural environment.

For me, nature and in particular, a keen and active observation of the world around us – its colours, its details, its changes – can provide the basis of such a range of writing.

Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’, has always been a favourite of mine, and I wanted to draw out its ambiguity as both a poem of hope and uncertainty in my writing today.

I took the poem and some blank paper to my local park, to observe the falling leaves in detail and consider the metaphorical implications that I could draw on and describe.

I am feeling even more re-inspired to create further stories – and to frequent more parks with nothing but an inspirational poem and blank sheet.