12 January 2007
on being brilliant

"oh damn, oh damn--not an idea in my head or a wish to be brilliant."

Sums up how I'm feeling right about now; I even had to steal words to express it.
That's Virginia Woolf talking in Volume Four of her diary. If you enjoy peering into the mind of a phenomenal writer and you haven't looked at this 5-volume set yet, here's your formal invitation.

I don't know how many times I've read through it, but I haven't seen so many dog ears since the last time I was at an SPCA. There is something quotable on literally every page.

I get lost in Woolf's diary the same way that I get lost in her novels. Her writing is always evocative and gorgeous, but the characters in her real life are every as bit as entertaining and eccentric. She was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, a social circle of English intellectuals, writers and artists mainly, who became as well-known for their open sexual practices as their political and economic beliefs. American-turned-Brit poet T.S. Eliot was often nearby as well.

Woolf lived an exceptional although short life--and not one that I wouldn't have loved except for the whole perpetual depression and eventual suicide part, of course. Throughout her diary, she's always having people over for tea, writing letters, admonishing herself for not writing more letters, reading and reviewing more books than seems humanly possible, gossiping about acquaintances, traveling the world. And worrying about money. A lot. Surprising, huh?

Sometimes she holds back her emotions, perhaps with an understanding that her diary might be for the world to read one day, but there are also many instances in which she's raw and uncut, if you will. And those parts are simply amazing.

For the aspiring authors among us, Woolf also writes about the age-old craft probably without even realizing she's doing so; she's merely recounting her experiences as she plods through novel after essay after short story after novel. And yet her diary sometimes reads like an instruction manual, a how-to for those of us who hope to follow her writing path.

Plot struggles? Check.

Writer's block? Check.

Just plain sick of writing? Check check check!

Isn't it wonderful to know that on some days, even Virginia Woolf couldn't write a damn word?

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Anonymous alexmom said...

Phew! I was wondering where you were this morning.I was afraid you'd taken off for a 3-day holiday or something.*bleeding espresso* has become my daily Calabrian fix, along with my morning caffe', as soon as I get to my desk! Have a nice weekend.

Blogger Annika said...

Haven't read anything by her yet but now is as good a time as any. I think I'll stop by the library tomorrow! :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Thanks for the compliment Alexmom. And sorry for the scare!

Annika, some of my VW favorites: A Voyage Out, Orlando, The Waves, To the Lighthouse, Three Guineas...oh so many! She's a stream of consciousness writer, so once you get the hang of reading that, it's simply beautiful stuff.

Anonymous J.Doe said...

When I read the title of your post I thought you were talking about me. :) Then I read the post and found out you were talking about someone else.
I haven't read anything by her either, but with your recommendation then maybe I will

I will have to check out her diaries, along with TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. After seeing THE HOURS I wanted to know more about her.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Oh! I forgot Mrs. Dalloway! Another of my faves. The book The Hours (Michael Cunningham maybe?) was pretty good too; I've never seen the movie.

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