Pittasporum - Photo Theresa Sjoquist

Ultimately, it is we who must be served by our own writings and to write for any other reason, invites the internal, ever-vicious critic.  Here’s what Virginia Woolf had to say on the subject:

Extract from A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf, 1929

I do not believe that even the Table of Precedency, which you will find in Whitaker’s Almanac, represents a final order of values, or that there is any reason to suppose that a Commander of the Bath will ultimately walk in to dinner behind a Master of a Lunacy.

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belonging to the private school stage of human existence where there are ‘sides’, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot.

As people mature they cease to believe in sides or or in Headmasters or in highly ornamental pots.  At any rate, where books are concerned, it is notoriously difficult to fix labels of merit in such a way that they do not come off.  Are not reviews of current literature a perpetual illustration of the difficulty of judgement?  ‘This great book’, this worthless book’, the same book is called by both names.  Praise and blame alike mean nothing.

No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of all attitudes.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.  But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.

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