The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life
Welcome to a site celebrating classic women authors who wrote in the English language. Here you’ll find their words of wisdom for readers and writers. Enjoy their life stories and quotations; learn more about their books; read their advice on the writing life; and enjoy contemporary voices on the writing process.
Dear Literary Ladies
Dear Literary Ladies,
Which is better—to write purely to please yourself, or to write with an audience in mind?
No, you don’t write for yourself or for others. You write out of a deep inner necessity. If you are a writer, you have to write, just as you have to breathe, or if you’re a singer you have to sing. But you’re not aware of doing it for someone. This need to write was for me as strong as the need to live. I needed to live, but I also needed to record what I lived. It was a second life, it was my way of living in a more heightened way.
—Anais Nin, from a 1973 interview in A Woman Speaks
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), a prolific American born poet, rarely left her home or had contact with many people, but when she did, it gave her immense motivation for her writing. In her earlier years she was more apt to leave her home and go to school and visit with friends and later in life, becoming sick and concerned for her and her familiy’s well being, stayed close to home. Her poems are ones of sadness and loneliness, but sometimes give a glimpse of hope for happiness.
She was a writer that did not produce work in order to publish, to make money and gain fame; she cared only to share her thoughts and writings with those close to her. Publishers, because of her unconventional way of writing and her refusal to acknowledge basic literary rules, often edited Dickinson’s poems, making her and them even more unique.
Although she lived mostly in isolation, Dickinson was able to capture the human spirit in such great ways in her prose. Being surrounded by religion and strict rules is possibly something that caused her to remain so hidden, not being social as a fear of being ostracized because of her unwillingness to accept these restrictions. After her death, about 1,800 poems were discovered by her family, and against her wish of having them burned, they were instead heavily edited and published. Read More→