Tag Archives: atom

A Writer as a Slave

In Virginia Woolf’s article, “The Common Reader,” one passage stood out to me in particular:

“The mind receives a myriad impressions–trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they  come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from the old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it” (150).

I am struggling to understand the connection between impressions on the mind, atoms, and the writer as a slave. Do the conventions of writing force a writer to only write about impressional events, and not his/her own feelings? Are the “Bond Street tailors” referring to tailors in Brooklyn, NY, whom would sew a button with perfection to satisfy customers?


Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.