|Virginia Woolf in Vanity Fair, 1924|
On this day in 1882, the incomparable Virginia Woolf was born. Here are some extracts from her letters, diaries, and “A Room of One’s Own” on the writing life that have inspired and reassured me many times over the years.
“But how entirely I live in my imagination; how completely depend upon spurts of thought, coming as I walk, as I sit; things churning up in my mind and so making a perpetual pageant, which is to be my happiness.”
“It’s the curse of a writer’s life to want praise so much, and be so cast down by blame, or indifference. The only sensible course is to remember that writing is after all what one does best; that any other work would seem to me a waste of life; that on the whole I get infinite pleasure from it; that I make one hundred pounds a year; and that some people like what I write...”
“Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand, here I am sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas and visions and so on, and can’t dislodge them for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this and set this working (which has nothing to do apparently with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.”
“But what a little I can get down with my pen of what is so vivid to my eyes, and not only to my eyes: also to some nervous fibre or fan-like membrane in my spine.”
“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached to life at all four corners...”
“Even now, I have to watch the rooks beating up against the wind, which is high, and still I say to myself instinctively, ‘What’s the phrase for that?’”