This is a transcript from an interview that Virginia Woolf gave to the BBC in 1937.
The point she makes is that words are tools, they don’t do very much if you leave them lying on the bench. What’s more, if you aren’t skilled at using them, they’ll not do a good job for you. She makes a very interesting point in that just because you have a dictionary, it does not mean you can write. To me a dictionary is like having your tools in racks where you can find them easily – yet you still need to know which is the right one to use, and how to use it properly.
Simon Winchester’s “The Surgeon of Crowthorne” looks at the genesis of the Oxford English Dictionary. Enthusing about the ways and means by which it was brought about, makes an assertion that I found missed the point entirely. He mentioned that Shakespeare had no recourse to a dictionary. Did he need one? If he was short of a word, he’d as soon invent one, or form his thoughts around those he knew. Shakespeare was truly creative in that he used his words to describe the image in his mind’s eye. Just as Virginia Woolfe did, and just as I do. Creativity starts with mental imagery, and works out from there – you cannot construct it as easily by building it using brick-like words, just as you can’t grow a plant by cobbling atoms together.