Monday, November 5, 2012
Are you afraid to be Virginia Woolf?
I have been slowly working my way through the corpus of Virginia Woolf, in between other ventures. At the moment I am reading The Waves, one of her more experimental novels. I may not understand or like everything that she does in her books, but I am so very grateful that she took the time to do it.
I have no idea how well her books sold during her lifetime, but I don’t imagine that she depended on them for an income. She did not write for money. She wrote, I suspect, because she simply had no choice. The same is true for many of us, I think, though without necessarily sharing her talent.
We live at the dawn of an age in which almost any of us can write and publish our own work. No doubt this will result in a great deal of substandard writing. But, and it is a very important but, many of the independent writers who are working today do not necessarily need to earn a living from it. Many, like Virginia, can write simply and solely because they love to write, or because they are compelled to write. This shatters the constraints on creativity! Out there at this very moment are Virginia Woolfs and James Joyces, agonising at the keyboard. They have the freedom to break all the rules, tear down all the barriers. Let’s hear from you. Shatter us with your words, make us weep, make us laugh, make us angry, make us soar. Delight us, disturb us, upset us, challenge us.
A word of caution though. Learn first the trade of writing, the nuts and bolts, the dos and don’ts. Don’t rush headlong into creative chaos. Virginia’s early novels (like Picasso’s early paintings) are quite conventional. Only when you know and understand the rules can you bend and break them creatively. Then, by all means do the don’ts and do not the dos.
Relish this freedom; and who knows, perhaps, in seventy years time, someone will be working their way through your body of work.