And this susceptibility of theirs is doubly unfortunate, I thought, returning again to my original enquiry into what state of mind is most propitious for creative work, because the mind of an artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent.

The narrator introduces the idea of incandescence in Chapter 3, when she notes that often geniuses care too much about how others perceive them. She considers it a great paradox that geniuses are often self-conscious, which runs contrary to how she believes the best writing is created, which is with an incandescent mind. She imagines the artist as having a work or vision within themself that they need to release into the world, something they can only do with a mind that is illuminated, or incandescent, with a clarity of purpose.

Yet it is clear that could she have freed her mind from hate and fear and not heaped it with bitterness and resentment, the fire was hot within her.

The narrator writes this of the 17th century poet Lady Winchilsea in Chapter 4. The narrator considers Winchilsea’s work marred by how angry she is at the lack of education afforded to her as a woman. Despite the narrator’s assessment that Winchilsea had natural talent, she believes Winchilsea’s anger distracted her from having a pure vision. Thus, her anger dominates the poetry instead of the poetry speaking with its own voice.

Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness.

The narrator has this advice for the imagined writer Mary Carmichael she writes about in Chapter 5. Here she explains to Mary what it means to be incandescent, that is, shedding light on and then expressing clearly what is in her soul. Notably, this process includes revealing what lies within her and what she believes it means, but not her feelings about it. To the narrator, an incandescent creator must transcribe a vision simply as it is, whether it reveals something good or bad.

He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.

In this quotation from Chapter 6, the narrator explains her interpretation of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s idea of the androgynous mind. In the narrator’s view, an androgynous mind is incandescent because it does not worry about how its audience will perceive its work based on its gender. She imagines that all people’s minds have masculine and feminine aspects, and that by joining those into an androgynous mind, an artist can have a fuller view of humanity.

The whole of the mind must be wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace.

The narrator comes to this conclusion in Chapter 6 after she explains why she considers self-consciousness as detrimental to a writer’s work. Once again, the problem lies in insecurity and the lack of incandescence. The narrator believes that if a narrator is over-conscious of their masculinity or femininity, this will disrupt the transmission of ideas, much like bitterness or fear. If, instead, the writer allows their mind to be androgynous, they will have the calm, secure mindset to allow their vision to flow unimpeded.