Who’s intimidated by Virginia Woolf?


Well, I am, for instance.

Am reading Julia Briggs’ Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, and am impressed by the woman’s energy and devotion to — obsession with — writing. Despite being beset by frequent headaches, debilitating illnesses and awful depression, she managed to crank out brilliant short stories, books and reviews throughout her relatively short life. I loved that to her, the work was the most important thing. She saw her art as her profession, her vocation, something to take seriously. I struggle with this myself, sometimes imagining people telling me that writing is but a hobby, a frivolous activity that should only take place outside of the restricted hours of a real job. Woolf absolutely believed not only that her writing was her gift but the work that she was put on this earth to do. Would that I could have so much self-confidence.

I knew that she had created a publishing company with her husband Leonard (Hogarth Press) but didn’t know much about it until recently. Apparently much of her work was actually published by Hogarth Press, making her one of those “self-published authors” so many people disdain nowadays. (I have a dear friend who still looks down on self-published books as a bunch of drivel written by ignorant amateurs who couldn’t hack it with a real publisher. Yes, we’re still friends, but we definitely don’t agree on that point.) I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have my own publishing company, not just for my own work but for others. Now would be the absolute worst time to be a publisher, of course, not with all these consolidations and bankruptcies, but wouldn’t it be something? Mine would likely focus primarily on works by women, both fiction and nonfiction, biographies, literary essays, philosophy, feminism, that sort of thing. Not so much the academic volumes but the more accessible work that can reach a broader, mainstream audience, the people who wouldn’t ordinarily visit a feminist bookstore, for example. I’d love to work with writers such as Jessica Valenti and Amy Richards, writers from my generation and younger who have such exciting ideas about politics and social and global issues.

Maybe someday, if I win the Texas Lotto. Awfully nice to dream about it, though.

One thought on “Who’s intimidated by Virginia Woolf?

  1. Sounds like you would have a wonderful publishing company! 🙂 And I agree with you on self-publishing. I don't know why all the disdain, it's just as legitimate a path as any other writing path. Different people want to work in different ways, and that's cool. 🙂

    Enjoyed your thoughts on Virginia Woolf, too. She was amazing. Yes, writing was her calling, and I wonder, too, if her art was her way of making sense out of the world, and her way of dealing with the pain of her depression.

    I, too, loathe when people don't consider writing a “real” job. I experience some of that, though fortunately not too much, since most of my family is supportive *whew*! 🙂

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