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Meditations on Writing and Life From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

Exploring Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own for Wisdom on Writing and Life

 

Virginia Woolf was once asked to speak about women and fiction.

Woolf wandered the streets of London, sat by the riverside, pored over shelves full of books in the British Museum, went to luncheons, and considered the then state of literature. While working in a constricted space in that London where women weren’t even allowed to walk on turf paths in colleges (only men and students could), Virginia created a masterpiece on why there were limited women writers and even more limited writings by them.

Woolf delivered the lectures in October 1928 at the women’s colleges of Cambridge University. Published in September 1929, A Room of One’s Own is an essay based on those lectures.

Woolf went back to the works of Proust, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Kipling, Keats, and many more known and unknown writers to understand the truth. She read fiction written by women and studied her contemporaries’ books. She contemplated why the writing of men scorned women and if women were writing good fiction.

In the essays, Virginia emphasized — while showing her detailed thought process — “that a woman needs money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

In addition to being a seminal work on feminism, A Room of One’s Own is an infinite pool of wisdom on writing and life. In the essay, Virginia Woolf argued passionately and statistically about how cultural, spiritual, and financial restrictions may limit our creative freedom.

Given the essay has so much to read into, I will only delve into the lessons on life and writing that Woolf was so benevolent in sharing with us.

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Best Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2020

Out of the 48 or so books I read in 2020, 25 percent — that’s only 12 books — were non-fiction. The rest were fiction books and children’s tales.

I started reading non-fiction in 2017 when I started this blog On My Canvas. I always read stories and novels, but nonfiction wasn’t a big thing around me. Not that reading fiction was a trend in my social circle either. I can count the selected few readers amongst my friends, batchmates, and colleagues at my fingertips.

There was one guy in college who loved Shakespeare and read philosophy. There is a poetry lover and creator who is still a great friend. Some of the elites from Vidya Mandir and other high-class Delhi schools could talk about Mark Twain and J.R.R Tolkien but only seldom did I see them with a book. Or maybe I wasn’t noticing books at that time myself. 

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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2020

 

I write because I read. I grow because I read. I can never be bored because I read.

Out of the 48 or so books I read in 2020, 75 percent — that is 36 books — were fiction. The rest were non-fiction books, children’s stories, and travel books.

Even though most of my writing is personal growth and travel-focused, I also write short stories and personal essays.

And for any kind of creative writing — travel, short stories, and even self-development — reading fictional books is crucial. Otherwise, how would I know how to describe a scene on the street or a conversation amongst two people sitting in a cafe? How would I keep the articles interesting and give them a story arc? A beginning, a middle, and an end, you know.

Apart from helping me write, fiction short story books and novellas are interesting and entertaining. They teach a lot about the history of the world. Fiction books also unravel the behavior and inner workings of human beings. (These 21 books changed the way I understand life.)

So while The Outsider taught me how straightforward life can be, Gora and Anna Karenina showed me a lot about the desires and limitations of human beings while telling the history of India and Russia. I wouldn’t have known so much about the Brahmo Samaj and the Russian high class if not for those two books.

I’m thankful.

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Celebrating 3 Thriving Years of On My Canvas – And Future Plans

And just like that, On My Canvas completed three thriving years on the internet.

Congratulations to us all who have been part of this budding platform through which I want to spread love, life, and hope. I cannot thank my readers enough for sticking with me all the while, for sending me immensely inspirational messages day and night, and for asking me to write more and more. On some hard days, I could not have done it without your endless emails and witty comments.

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21 Books That Will Change Your Life – They Changed Mine

Did anyone ever tell you that you should read books to change your life?

I started reading non-fiction and fiction books sincerely only for the last four-five years. But in this duration, I read some books that shifted the course of my life. They exposed me to unbelievable facts. They laid open the science that I didn’t know exist. They told me stories I could never imagine. They made me cry like I hadn’t before. They made me laugh as if I had nothing to worry about. They accompanied me when I was lonely. They unfurled the greatest lives. They told me life can be lived in many ways. They reassured me that it was okay to be who I was. But also that I could grow.

You don’t know what is out there until you read. And then the ghosts don’t leave you alone, ever.

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9 Creative Writing Tactics to Enrich Your Travel Writing

My Top Travel Writing Secrets That I Probably Shouldn’t Share.

I have been writing about travel for close to two years now. When I started this blog, I wrote on personal growth and life inspiration. But because I travel a lot and enjoy writing about nature, people, and experiences, I began writing travel articles on On My Canvas.

When I first ventured into travel writing, I was horrified about putting down a sad solo travel story of Thailand or a photo essay because I didn’t know how to write about travel. I didn’t have the right tools. I remember telling my partner that I would need a lot of time to write good, relatable travel pieces that readers will enjoy.

As a beginner travel writer, I wrote subjective pieces like why I travel and my thoughts on the Cambodian dictatorship. I was always inclined towards penning down personal essays based on my travel experiences, such as this Panchapalli Dam memoir, rather than writing about the five things to do.

Some of my travel writings turned out to be good and some were bad, as expected. So while this piece on my love and hate relationship with India won me many accolades, I am still ashamed of this Vietnam Photo Essay.

As I wrote and published frequently on my past trips such as Southeast Asia, and my nine-month South America trip, I started getting a hang of travel writing.

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Thinking of a Career Change at 30? I Quit My Job, Too

Why I Quit My Job, Shelved My IIT Computer Science Degree, and Started Writing

 

A software engineer by education, I was once a coder and an investment banker, but now I write full-time.

In this essay I talk about my six-year-long journey of thinking of a career change, why and how I quit my job, and finally went through a career change at 30.

If you are looking for a career change in 30s, I would recommend you read this piece for I have given an honest account of my own journey from coding to writing.

Let’s read.

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2 Years of Blogging – My Best Advice for New Bloggers

It doesn’t seem like yesterday that I started On My Canvas.

Two years ago I returned from South America after a nine-months-long solo trip through the continent’s most stunning places.

A constant itch to write, events (quitting my job, taking writing workshops, and applying to creative writing programs) prior to my trip travel, and the time I spent contemplating during the journey brought me to the conclusion that I should write full-time.

I love writing. Stories bring me to life — so why not write something that adds value to others?

I had worked hard to achieve many desired and undesired goals (cracking IIT, dragging myself through a Computer Science degree, juggling corporate jobs). I braved to live a lifestyle unapproved by the collectivist society of India. I was almost 30, unmarried, had quit my investment banking job, and traveled the world alone — that’s not a typical scene for an Indian girl from a middle-class family of a small town in North India.

Now was the time to put my journey and struggle to someone else’s use.

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27 Writing Tips for Novice Writers – Write Better

I was one of the novice writers (I still am) until three years ago when I quit my investment banking job to experiment if I could write for a living. While I was over thinking about the integrities of my invisible writing career, I decided to travel to Chile and teach English there. People say that a new environment and immersive travel experiences provide you the right motivation to write.

Andean landscapes took my oxygen away, Chilean children stared at me when I enunciated the English name of their beloved palta, my host mother fed me pyramids of bread and cheese, and Spanish dumbfounded me. But during this chaos, I managed to write every day.

In the past three years, I have written (almost) daily, published regularly on my blog and on Medium publications, earned a living by writing for freelance clients, have published poems out of which one has been accepted in a book, have contributed to big and small websites, have send stories and articles to magazines and newspapers, and have become a top writer on Quora and a top Travel Writer on Medium.

Has writing been easy?

Are you joking?

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Hold on Even After Your Hands Bleed – For That Is The Only Way to Succeed

You would encounter sharp rocks jutting out of every mountain you wish to climb. Let me show you through my perseverant journey as a budding writer, that why do you have to keep going on even if your hands bleed. Never give up. Fight for your dreams. That is the only way to succeed. 

You start. You are exhilarated. You shriek at the top of your voice from the roof of your confidence. You laugh from your stomach. You give long motivational speeches to your friend about how they need to start living. You wake up singing a tune about the morning sunshine. You look forward to Mondays because life has taken a route that you could only dream about.

People say you are inspiring. They applaud you. Your friends like and share everything you post. They read everything you write. Some of them even help you correct the grammar. You are glad as being corrected by friends is better than being ridiculed by your other readers.

You don’t worry about the money, yet, as the savings save you. Your family is appalled by your decision. But they don’t say anything this time. The last time they did, their words dug a deep valley between you two.

Your Mac is your new Nietzsche. All your philosophy seems to pour out of it.

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Golden Highlights of 2018 – A Year of Writing, Love, and Nomadness.

The whistles of a black kite which is hovering above me in the light blue sky are the only sounds that break my attention now and then. In front of me, a green parrot just flew by; I see more of them in the morning, when one after another they go, searching for grains and guavas and water and, maybe, more parrots. The coffee cuckoo, similar to the one that used to visit me in my previous apartment, also flew from one tree to another in the park in front of my writing studio.

I have stationed myself in one corner of this studio on a chatayi or as we say a mat nowadays, and from here I write my heart out. In this nomadic life, you can find me on and off in Bangalore, for I always come here to be with my partner, and thus I pen down many pieces from his vicinity with a temporary feeling of home.

Having spent more than four months now as a nomad, I have realized that you don’t have to own or rent an apartment to be at home. Neither are you always on the go even if you are living a nomadic life.

At the end of the day when I think about getting back home, I imagine a quiet place, where the bathroom taps do not drip and where I cannot hear the screeching tires or intruding honks, but I can only tune into the crickets singing songs to each other. Where I can lay on a bed or in a sleeping bag in a tent, preferably tucked away in the midst of trees, with a warm cup of tea and a book to read. From where I can make a phone call to my parents and family for they worry if I disappear for even a day. I imagine a home that is a window into the world, or it has a window from where I can see the world, which I like to have at a distance. And that is all.

Such are my preferences these days. I started penning down this article to tell you about how my priorities shaped up the year 2018, and so on I go.

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Learnings From One–Year of Sincere Writing and Blogging

I think a lot more.

I read a lot more. I scroll blogs for hours. I highlight words while I read. I note them down. I try to go through them again.

I write a lot more. I ask myself why shall I not write on a Sunday. The world goes on. So I go on describing it.

I broke up with redundant words. I perfect the Whatsapp messages and the emails I send. My scrutinizing eyes don’t even spare the responses of my friends.

When I wake up, I think about writing instead of thinking about going to the toilet. I am burdened by guilt the day I don’t write. The day I write well, I feel liberated.

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