I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
I recently read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, and I highly recommend it, especially because it has one of my favorite qualities in a book—it’s short! (My copy is 112 pages.) It’s a nonfiction piece, an extended essay that I’d categorize as persuasive, yet it is written with plenty of creative flair—as well as powerfully sharp insights about writing, gender issues, history, and life in general.
Several of those insights have influenced my thinking already. For example, look at this passage from chapter four:
“One might say…that the woman who wrote those pages [Charlotte Brontë] had more genius in her than Jane Austen; but if one reads them over and marks [notices] that jerk in them, that indignation, one sees that she will never get her genius expressed whole and entire…She will write in a rage where should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters. She is at war with her lot.”
How true! A writer with some big resentment toward life will produce inferior art to the one who does not. A chip on the shoulder, a bone to pick, a high horse to speak from—these attitudes spoil art.
This insight was a piece of my path toward seeing the error I confessed to you on Monday. While my blog isn’t a work of fiction, I extended the general principle here to say that bitterness prohibits good, pure writing.
That’s not to say, I think, that a writer can never have opinions or express a message through art, because obviously many great writers do just that. It’s a general state of contentment that is needed in order for one to create writing that is not egocentric.
Yet, as Virginia Woolf so effectively communicates, this attitude isn’t always available, when writers (like women in past centuries) truly do not have an amenable lot in life. I’m grateful for the privileges I enjoy today…and I continue to work and wait for the ones I wish to have (specifically, the goal of eventually earning my living through writing, so I can have more time and energy to create good writing). “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”—that’s Virginia Woolf’s thesis in this book.