Virginia Woolf

I've been reading the diaries of Virginia Woolf just lately. She's an exquisite writer; somebody I find I like more and more as I get older; and I write my own novel much more easily when I've been reading her. Our styles have nothing in common, but the quality of her prose convinces me of something or other that I need to be convinced of in order to write. Whether it's the importance of what I'm attempting -- and what she did so brilliantly -- I don't know. Maybe it's just that there is stiff competition out there and before I'm dead I ought to stop calling myself a writer and write.

But a stray thought occurred to me about how the celebrity culture has distorted our expectations of success as I read the book over coffee this morning. Virginia writes that she considers one book -- I think it's "To The Lighthouse" -- a tremendous hit (though she would never use such a vulgar word) with the public because she has sold 1600 copies of it. Think about that. Yes, she became one of a handful of writers to achieve literary immortality; but in her lifetime she was thrilled about the sale of 1600 books. If Lady Ga-Ga sold 1600 copies of her new album or James Cameron sold 1600 dvds of "Avatar" both would be declared a disaster.

What that demonstrates is the importance of quality. You should strive for that first and then see what happens.

Very little would make me happier than thinking, just before they carry me off to the worm farm, that I have made something for the ages rather than the stupid fashions of our time.

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