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Virginia Woolf on why writing isn't a craft

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
1 min read

This is the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf. She’s reciting the opening of an essay on how to read literature, but there’s some incredible stuff on writing too. It’s a fascinating insight.

I quite liked this pointed section:

“Think what it would mean if you could teach, or if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper you pick up would tell the truth, or would create beauty. But there is, it would appear, some obstacle in the way, some hindrance to the teaching of words. For though at this moment at least a hundred professors are lecturing the literature of the past, at least a thousand critics are reviewing literature of the present, and hundreds upon hundreds of young men and women are passing examinations in English literature with the utmost credit. Still, do we write better, do we read better, than 400 years ago, when we were unlectured, uncriticised, untaught?”

With all the fuss over the merits (or otherwise) of post-graduate writing courses, this could have been written and spoken today. Zing!

literatureReadingvirginia woolf

Iain Broome

I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.