Virginia Woolf famously wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Leaving aside the question of what a woman writes—fiction or nonfiction, prose or poetry, journalism or pithy blog posts, just how important is it to have a room of one’s own?
In researching the writing lives of twelve classic women authors for my book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, I was often struck by the universality of the issues and struggles all writers experience. Finding quiet time to write and a modicum of privacy was as great a challenge for a nineteenth-century woman, especially those with children, as it is for today’s writing women. Read More→
Eudora Welty (1909 – 2001), known for her perceptive sense of place as a Southern American writer, also wrote much about the writing life. Here are some of her observations, sure to inspire writers no matter where they are on their journeys:
Use all the abundance you possess
“We do need to bring to our writing, over and over again, all the abundance we possess. To be able, to be ready, to enter into the minds and hearts of our own people, all of them, to comprehend them (us) and then to make characters and plots in stories that in honesty and with honesty reveal them (ourselves) to us, in whatever situation we live through in our own times: this is the continuing job, and it’s no harder now than it ever was, I suppose. Every writer, like everybody else, thinks he’s living through the crisis of the ages. To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most.” (On Writing, 2002) Read More→
Excerpted from Becoming a Writer (1934) by Dorothea Brande, proving that good writing advice is timeless: There is a sort of writer’s magic. There is a procedure which many an author has come upon by happy accident or has worked out for himself which can, in part, be taught.
To be ready to learn it you will have to go by a rather roundabout way, first considering the main difficulties which you will meet, then embarking on simple, but stringently self-enforced exercises to overcome those difficulties. Last of all you must have faith, or the curiosity, to take one odd piece of advice which will be unlike any of the exhortations that have come your way in classrooms or in textbooks.
Willa Cather (1873-1947) was a craftswoman of the written word. Known for their stark beauty and spare language, her novels reflected her philosophy that writing is a craft to be honed and perfected. Cather’s considerable wisdom has been fully preserved.
She always had a great deal of wisdom to impart on the art of writing. Here’s a sampling, excerpted from several of the numerous interviews she granted (despite her professed disdain for the press and with fame in general) between 1915 and the mid-1920s. Read More→
“I would ask you to write all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or how vast. By hook or by crook, I hope you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.
For I am by no means confining you to fiction. If you would please me—and there are thousands like me—you would write books of travel and adventure, and research and scholarship, and history and biography, and criticism and philosophy and science. By so doing you will certainly profit the art of fiction. For books have a way of influencing each other. Read More→