Writers that Inspire: Learn the Art of Writing from Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was more than a famous writer. Decades after her death, her name became famous again thanks to Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the subsequent movie starring Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor. But this is just a pop culture reference. The real Virginia Woolf is a talented author who remains a writing inspiration even in the 21st century. Or, we may say, especially in the 21st century.

Who Was the Real Famous Writer Virginia Woolf?

Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London in 1882, the future writer was the seventh of eight children of an affluent Victorian family. Both her parents had children from previous marriages. Adeline Virginia was one of the four children her parents had together. Another of these children was modernist painter Vanessa Bell.

We can say that Virginia Woolf was lucky to be born in a family with definite artistic and literary interests. Her mother, Julia Prinsep Jackson, was a well-known model for Pre-Raphaelite painters. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a reputable author, critic, biographer and historian.

The family used to take holidays in St. Ives, Cornwall, where they had a summer home. The main landmark of this area is the Godervy Lighthouse. This would be the source of inspiration for Virginia Woolf when she started writing stories and novels. It is the central element of one of her best known books, “To the Lighthouse”.

Finding Her Path Despite Major Adversities

What is remarkable about Virginia Woolf is her ability to find her voice in literature and create works like Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando: A Biography or The Waves despite battling mental health issues. Throughout her life, the famous writer suffered from mood disorder and psychosis, triggered, according to her admissions, by sexual abuse by one of her step-brothers.

Together with the drama of losing her mother when Virginia was only 13, this shaped her future development into a woman who resisted masculine authority. While plaguing her personal life, the attitude helped her become a famous writer with a distinctive voice and style.

Why Is Virginia Woolf a Writing Inspiration for Young Authors?

The period of time when Virginia Woolf wrote was still dominated by men. Women were supposed to write poems and “nice” prose – that is, not dealing with serious issues and characters. Virginia Woolf became a famous writer because she disobeyed these rules. She is now recognized as one of the most important modernist authors, not simply a woman writer.

Her key contribution to literature is the use of the narrative technique known as “stream of consciousness”. In simple terms, it is the character’s interior monologue, which presents their thoughts and feelings in the first person. This is a break from the previous writing style, where the author is omniscient and shares all the characters’ thoughts in the third person.

Apart from her novels, famous writer Virginia Woolf also penned essays. These essays share valuable writing advice for young authors. But we think that we should look at Virginia Woolf’s life and body of work as a complete source of writing inspiration.

These are the main points that we find inspirational:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Against the Current

Virginia Woolf did almost everything a woman writer wasn’t supposed to do in her time and age. She created deep and meaningful characters. She made innovations the narrative technique. She was an indomitable character, herself. As one of her biographers, accomplished scholar Hermione Lee stated: “I think I would have been afraid of meeting her. I am afraid of not being intelligent enough for her.”

As for Virginia Woolf’s own approach to rules in writing, here’s what she says in the “Modern Fiction” essay: “In any case it is a mistake to stand outside examining ‘methods’. […] ‘The proper stuff of fiction’ does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon, no perception comes amiss.”

  1. Writing Stories Takes Time and Experience

The famous writer issued a warning to authors: “For heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty.” Virginia Woolf did not publish her first novel, “The Voyage Out” when she was 33 years old. She believed that a writer should not rush to publish in early youth because exposure to criticism “shriveled them into a skeleton austerity, both emotional and verbal”.

However, this does not mean that young authors should actually wait until they turn 30 years old. Virginia Woolf’s warning should be seen in this light: make sure your style of writing stories is mature enough to stand criticism. And to attract the readers’ goodwill, we add.

  1. Become a Wordsmith

Virginia Woolf is a famous writer and a writing inspiration for the rich language of her novels. She is not afraid of long and difficult words and she creates a perceivable rhythm within each sentence. In an essay delivered for BBC in 1937, she explained: “Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth?”

  1. Don’t Become Overwhelmed by Writing

Anyone writing stories or other forms of fiction may become overwhelmed by the responsibility of conveying the right message to the reader. But this can actually hamper your writing style.

As Virginia Woolf states: “once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self–conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody.”

Do you feel like you need more help with your writing style? Become the writer you want to be – and your readers want to be – with helpful advice and tips from The Content Fair