Sunday, October 21

The Lady with Good Tips for Gardening

It's not necessary (I'm not saying odd or ridiculous) that an visual artist finds his creativeness on the bookshelf gathering works of Cervantes, William Faulkner and Turgenev, but at times a helping hand and a bit of sympathy from the dead gone but not forgotten is more than welcome. Today, my angel of mercy shows up in the form of Virginia Woolf, who could be one of the most friendliest writers you could ask for if you chance to relax for a while in the Saturday afternoon and hear her talking temperately and eloquently as a life-time companion who is always within reach. I select a couple of paragraphs below from The Patron and The Crocus -- a thought-provoking, short essay teaching you not how to make a fortune but to communicate with your audience and develop yourself as an artist. If you wanna download the original essay 1 that I modified a bit so the texts would be more readable on an A4 sheet, please click this link.
...for whom should we write? For the present supply of patrons is of unexampled and bewildering variety. There is the daily Press, the weekly Press, the monthly Press; the English public and the American public; the bestseller public and the worst-seller public; the highbrow public and the red-blood public; all now organised self-conscious entities capable through their various mouthpieces of making their needs known and their approval or displeasure felt. Thus the writer who has been moved by the sight of the first crocus in Kensington Gardens has, before he sets pen to paper, to choose from a crowd of competitors the particular patron who suits him best. It is futile to say, “Dismiss them all; think only of your crocus”, because writing is a method of communication; and the crocus is an imperfect crocus until it has been shared. The first man or the last may write for himself alone, but he is an exception and an unenviable one at that, and the gulls are welcome to his works if the gulls can read them.
Granted, then, that every writer has some public or other at the end of his pen, the high-minded will say that it should be a submissive public, accepting obediently whatever he likes to give it. Plausible as the theory sounds, great risks are attached to it. For in that case the writer remains conscious of his public, yet is superior to it—an uncomfortable and unfortunate combination, as the works of Samuel Butler, George Meredith, and Henry James may be taken to prove. Each despised the public; each desired a public; each failed to attain a public; and each wreaked his failure upon the public by a succession, gradually increasing in intensity, of angularities, obscurities, and affectations which no writer whose patron was his equal and friend would have thought it necessary to inflict.


1 THE PATRON AND THE CROCUS is from The Common Reader, First Series (1925). You can read or download Woolf's works on Ebooks@Adelaide.

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