What Virginia Woolf is teaching me about Amy Beach

I have heard from a few sources that the best writing is a process of discovery for the author. As opposed to a laying out of the facts known already by that author. I have also discovered this to be true in my writing of Amy Beach and Me.

I  began with a vague plan, some questions I wanted answered and an outline. But as I wrote, thought and continued to research, my story took on new directions and new dimensions. That to me is the most exciting aspect of writing: the process of discovery, the little lightbulb moments of inspiration that drive me forward in glee and excitement about what I am uncovering, bringing to light, and expressing.

It is interesting to me that other creative people talk about this same process of discovery. Was it Michelangelo who stated that he did not create the figure from the stone, but that he was discovering it and bringing it to light, into physical existence as he chipped away at the stone? Film editor Walter Murch (Conversation, Apocolypse Now, Incredible Lightness of Being, English Patient) says something similar in his book Blink. Or was this in the Conversations with Murch by Michael Ondatje? Anyway, he talks about how the process of editing is not simply cutting one scene or shot together with the next, but a process of discovering what the story is through experimentation, thought, counsel, screenings, etc.

A few weeks ago I began to read Virginia Woolf. Certainly I had read some of her writing before, but when I was quite young. Her life and meanings did not resonate with me then in the same way that they do now. To read her as I am writing about another woman artist, Amy Beach, who lived and worked in the same era as Woolf, is turning out to be an extraordinary experience. To read Woolf talk about the cultural and social realities of a woman artist during that period, and then to reflect on how the ideas I glean from her must have impacted the life of Amy Beach, is helping me to discover whole new ideas and thoughts about my pioneering woman composer, Amy Beach.

A new chapter button will be added soon to amybeachandme.com soon: What Virginia Woolf Taught Me About Amy Beach (or something to that effect).