On the Financial Foundations of Expressive Freedom

“Freedom and fullness of expression are of the essence of the art.”
~ Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, Chapter 4

It is curious to read such excerpts in the context of the recent identity reshuffle which birthed my artistic self, for the reshuffle itself was facilitated by being able, for the very first time, to comprehend my creative agency and permit full freedom to the expression I had previously attempted to exclusively dedicate to fiscally responsible occupations.  It is my hope that the newly-adopted perspective (which illuminates a network of countless interconnected paths so different to the hostile incline of a single marked route one must not abandon) will shed the rigid expectations long haunting the range of my output. In adopting this freedom I find the liberties I never permitted myself; the exuberance of the poet and her personna – an individual who accepts the fictional, hyperbolic and exaggerated nature of her work.

When discussing freedom and fullness of the art in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf focuses  on how sexism’s asphyxiating grasp limits woman’s ability to achieve financial independence, which she sees as the bare minimum for producing works of literary worth. Financial insecurity undoubtedly played a role in my prior inability to perceive myself for what I was, but this circumstance was derived from having yet to establish my career, as opposed to being blocked from doing so. My mind degenerated under persisting circular thoughts of how I would complete my education, secure my living space or afford to see my family; and it was not until I was able to obtain a predictable income and stable routine that my thoughts relaxed to the point of focusing on further topics.

Perhaps I was lucky that the artistic revelation arrived after income sources were secured. There is little comfort to be found in a risky departure from the path most tread, exposing oneself to the wilderness where the unforgiving winds of late capitalism brutalise a gentle soul of humble means. Since I am certain that such bravery – of forsaking salaried work for a precarious but time-abundant existence in a modern city – would be impossible for me, I am grateful that the stability and predictability of my office salary permit this wholly new world to spring. Undoubtedly I spend much more time doing what I like doing far less, but in my security I am able, for the first time, to imagine what else could be should I dedicate my free hours to crafting this end.

Financial matters aside, Virginia Woolf’s quote presented at the start of this note is extracted from a section of her essay which not only encourages women to withstand claims to their “natural” intellectual limitations, but additionally to perceive how existing formats represent the creations of men whose structure and rules may not be applicable to woman’s contribution. As such, she offers the space for women to shape the art, adapting its rhythm and presentation to the flow of their thoughts and inspiration.

Extending Woolf’s two arguments to the individual, she facilitates insights that can be made independent of gender – firstly that financial security may often play prerequisite for thought to form freely and secondly that existing format need not guide one’s contribution. Whilst a writer must be a reader first and foremost, no pre-defined rule of what constitutes essay, novel or poem should restrict one from presenting what the mind wants to write in the ambiguous or alien format in which it manifests.

Once more, I hope to achieve nothing more than to share part of the process which already exhibits a tangible difference in my life. Whilst financial means to secure a room and a desk appear to have played an indispensable role in enabling expression, abandoning imaginings of the format to which I must subscribe is what inflated the creative capacity. If you ever feel that how you write or paint or dance is not good enough, consider that exploration need not be judged by what has already been done, and that liberation in expression may empower many more than just your own self.

Yours,
Sia

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