Wednesday, September 14, 2011

VP4W 2 The Price of Conformity

The Virgin's Promise for Writers

The Dependent World, that is the world upon which the Virgin is dependent, provides for her needs. The price for this is conformity, specifically conforming to the expectations of others.

Conformity is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is the foundation of civil society. Conforming, for example, to traffic rules allows us to travel the roads and highways at will and in relative safety.

But as with many things, where a little conformity is a good thing, too much is bad because it suppresses individuality. As Kim Hudson* explains:
"The Price of Conformity is the suppression of the Virgin's true self. When the Virgin subscribes to the views of the people around her, she experiences a loss of self. Even when she is aware of what she wants, she doesn't see how she could achieve it."
One might conform because of ignorance or an uncritical acceptance of the situation (Hudson calls this, "Sleeping Through her Life"). One might understand but still agree to conform because they see no other or better option. One might conform because they're too focused on meeting the needs of others: "Often girls are highly praised for being helpful, beautiful, and thoughtful to others. ... The Virgin is soon so busy meeting the needs of others that there is little time or room to discover her own needs."

How often have you heard someone say, "I once thought I'd [do/make/become] __________, but then life came along ..." or, "I wanted to study art, but my father insisted I study accounting."

None of us, of course, is entitled to have all our dreams fulfilled. But none of us should have to go through life without fulfilling a single dream. This is the scope of the Price of Conformity.

At this point, you might say, "It's obvious that the Price of Conformity for writers is not writing."

There certainly are people who read a book, think, "Oh, I could do better than that," and yet because of the relentless pressure of the Dependent World never get around to stringing words together. 

What most people infected by the dream of the scribbler want is not just to write but to write what they want to write. There's a more subtle, yet far greater, price to be paid for conformity if you never get to write what you want. You may claim to have realized your dream if you find a job that involves writing or even establish yourself as a writer, but so long as you are compelled to write what others expect you to write, you haven't escaped the Price of Conformity.

Writing for an audience is not about your need to express yourself, but if you don't have anything to add to the conversation you're simply parroting back your influences.

* Kim Hudson, The Virgin's Promise

Image: Simon Howden /

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