Virginia Woolf argued that we need our own room and our own money. And she’s right, of course, though she doesn’t go far enough. We need quiet and our own thoughts. We need privacy. For a woman in a family, a woman with a child, a woman alive in the world, privacy is a primary difficulty. Space for thinking.
Whatever activity you’re engaged in while you’re thinking will change the shape of your thoughts. Walking, for instance, gives your thoughts a longer stride. They don’t jostle and shove the way they do when you’re driving. I do my most productive thinking when I walk the dogs. The pace is ideal for thoughts to jump in and out at will or complete a loop to resolve themselves.
How can we expect to be thoughtful without time and space for thinking? For reading? For solitude? When are we alone? Without the phone held against our faces like a tiny illuminated shield? Without someone else talking into the quiet? Without our own nervous distraction scattering the progress we’ve made?
Be quiet. It’s so odd to me that people say this as an admonishment when really it’s a gift. Be quiet. Wade into it. Those deep currents where you are entirely solitary and aware of your own sadness. Yours. The shape of it as familiar as your fingers, as your throat. How is it we find ourselves except in the silence? Women go mad when they’re not given important work to do. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about our internal monologue. I’m talking about the privacy of thinking without interruption. Without edit. Without censorship.
It’s a requirement for brilliance. For creativity. For growth. But more than that, it’s how the self builds. Not to get lost in our heads, but to think through. To give attention to our self. Our own brain. Our own center. To be alone there. To be quiet. To be thoughtful.