In 1931, English author Virginia Woolf wrote, “Killing the angel in the house was part of the occupation of a woman writer.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. I use if often when I feel the tug-of-war between getting the laundry done and getting the next chapter written. Woolf, of course, was talking about letting go of the illusion of ideal womanhood–the selfless woman who sacrifices her needs and ambitions in favor of her children and husband. And while we’ve come a long way since Woolf delivered her Professions for Women speech, in which she said for women, “Writing was a reputable and harmless occupation,” her words still resonate today.
It seems no matter how technologically advanced or how enlightened our thinking is today, we women writers still suffer bouts of guilt. We fight the sense that we’re neglecting our children, spouses or significant others, the house, the dishes, the yard if we lock ourselves away to write. We walk a tightrope hoping to maintain balance between our writing life and the rest of our life. If we are lucky, we have family and friends who support us. Kids who help-out with the dishes, a spouse to handle paying that pesky electric bill. Yet, it’s hard to sit down to write, when the To Do List runs the length of our arm or when the DDJ calls for overtime.
None of us is Superwoman, and striving to be all things to everyone can rob us of the joy of becoming who we’re meant to be–writers. Woolf wondered, once she’d killed the angel, what was next, what was left? That was probably the scariest of all, being herself.
And what is herself? Well, there is no way to know that, until we kill that angel, let go the falsehood that we can do it all, have it all. Shove that myth aside and get down to writing. As Woolf said of discovering herself, “I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill.”