"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?