The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Part II

555915_10152547102250444_44459850_nThis week my internship suggested that I attend a talk at the British Library called Women Writers in the British Museum. This talk was conducted by Susan David Bernstein and showcased her research on the impact of space on professional writing. She specifically looked at how the Reading Room of the British Museum played an important role in the emergence of modern women writers in Victoria London. She discussed how rooms, like the national library reading room, helped the development of a large group of professional writers in the 20th century and today.

This talk was a fascinating argument that writing is not strictly individual, but a collective experience. As I progress in my professional writing and rhetoric studies, I am growing on my understanding that writing is a combination of experiences, perspectives, and interactions.

Writing is the ebb and flow of ideas and opinions to create a collective process for novelists, poets, and other writers. The idea that space can facilitate that collective experience was very important to Ms. Bernstein’s argument. She argued that the space is the foundation writing because it brings together different perspectives. The argument could also be made that space is the catalyst for writing. It is through the interactions and perspectives that many writers fuel their narratives and writings.

In her talk she showed pictures of the British Library and I was amazed by its beauty and size. The ceiling is a large dome that shelters the massive open space. In the centre is a circulation desk with long wooden desks branching off the central area, much like spokes on a wheel. With this in mind, the physical space shows a connection of ideas and interactions. The rows of desks suggest a merging of ideas that cumulate at the circulation desk. It is this interconnected space that allowed writers of the 20th century to impact those around them. The desks are not closed off cubicles in a strict line, but are long rows of open spaces that allow for the free exchange of ideas. I asked her opinion on this matter and she suggested that the desks allowed for more gender flexibility also. Although the women were constrained to two desks during the time, she said that the set up allowed for them to be more daring and sit other places among the men, thus generating different

It is interesting that writing is not an individual task, but in many ways is a collective exchange. Many factors such impact this concept, but the most striking is a shared and open space. The interaction of mentors and exchange of ideas create the flow of ideas between writers. The space doesn’t need to be a grand reading room, but could be a pod of computers in a classroom or a circle of desks. In my opinion the space is the catalyst for the exchange of ideas, which can enhance a piece of work.

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