Virginia Woolf, known for incredible novels Mrs Dalloway and Orlando, is a literary icon. Her works touch on feminist issues within our society and female purpose within the universe. Woolf is a hero to millions of women round the world and rightfully so. Born to a remarkably free-thinking family for the time period, Virginia was supported and treasured by her parents for what she truly was: an incredible literary talent. At a young age she set up a family run newspaper, wrote essays and began her studies in Greek and German. The tragic loss of her Mother, Sister and Father in the space of 10 years greatly impacted her life. She returned to her studies while dealing with her personal loss, and started on her first novel before marrying her husband Leonard. It was shortly after her marriage when her books were first published.

The eyes of others, our prisons; their thoughts, our cages.

It goes without saying that we should be wary of others. We shouldn’t care what others think of us. Their thoughts and their disapproval is a prison for the artist, something to chain us to mediocrity. You should be the only person that can offer disapproval to your projects, if people laugh at you or suggest that you will fail you must have the strength to ignore them and free yourself from their prison. 

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.

Women should be valued for what they are. Anonymity is protection but also a hindrance we should champion ourselves, sign our name and believe that although we may be judged we will also be praised. Woolf was an early feminist, someone who believed that societal roles should change and that women should be allowed to think freely and speak freely. Just because feminine heroes can’t be found in a sexist record of history does not mean they did not exist. Women have been heroines for hundreds of years with remarkable strength and resilience and we should remember that. 

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Woolf believed that women should be independent from men in order to think and speak freely. In order to write fiction a man or woman must be self-made, have their own property and understand life as an independent free spirited being. 

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.

Being ourselves is the most important step to being happy and successful. The real achievements are completed in the dark without sparkle or fanfare. The real work is done when nobody is watching, the praise comes later. We should not rely on praise or sparkle but we should rely on ourselves. Woolf believed that being yourself and being true to your work is enough.

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

Have any of you seen braveheart? This quote reminds me of when Mel Gibson gives a rousing speech to all his soldiers: they may take our lives but they will never take OUR FREEDOM! The idea that we are in charge of our own mindset is a theory not just explored through the intellect of Woolf or cheesy 90s cinema. Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl spoke in depth about what it means to be human when all freedoms are stripped away. All we have left is our mind and we should treasure it.  

Books are the mirrors of the soul

Books teach us things about ourselves, whether we are writing them or reading them. By engaging with literature we can learn which pathways to take and which roads to travel. Books provide a degree of soul searching for every reader and writer, we should treasure these experiences and learn more about ourselves through reading.  

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.

Being honest with ourselves is key to being honest with others. By making a concerted effort to take responsibility and ownership for our mistakes we can inspire others to do the same. We will only be able to judge the actions of others fairly and truthfully if we judge our own actions accordingly. We must be selfless and remorseful when we regard our mistakes. 

Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.    

I have to say this is my favourite! I’m not even sure how to explain this one. There are so many meanings that can be attributed to this quote! Everything we do starts from a place of passion but that burning fiery desire eventually extinguishes and we begin to find new reasons to engage in them. We must never lose sight of our goals even if we are waning passion.

What do you think? Did I miss any?

Let me know what you think of these powerful Virginia Woolf quotes down in the comments. Also feel free to share your own experiences with them or let me know about any I’ve missed too!