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'Tis Nyte! by Elizabeth Watasin

Gothic Steampunk, Noir Sci-Fi, Diesel Fantasy. Bringing You Uncanny Heroines in Adventuress Tales.

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Virginia Woolf’s A WRITER'S DIARY

Reblogged from Sabbie Dare and Friends:
  • My copy of Virginia Woolf’s A WRITER'S DIARY seems to be a first edition of 1953 from The Hogarth Press. It has that smell of an old book about it – a mix of tobacco, spores and midnight oil. The original owner of the book has written her name in on the first page in slanting black ink...Marjory Todd...and dated it 1/1/54,suggesting that this was a Christmas present. Dipping into it on occasion, as I do, reminds me of  something Virginia wrote...What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me! I went in and found the table laden with books. I looked in and sniffed them all. I could not resist carrying this one off and broaching it. I think I could happily live here and read forever...Virginia Woolf’s diaries were kept over a period of twenty-seven years and after her death, her husband, Leonard, gathered extracts from them together. He went through 30 handwritten volumes and selected passages that related only to her writing life. They take us from 1919, when she was 36, to 1941. The last entry, just 20 days before she walked into the River Ouse with an overcoat filled with stones, finishes...I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down. 
It has been suggested that Leonard kept the more intimate areas of Virginia’s diary from publication because she wrote of their relationship, her sexuality and the state of her mental health. But he maintained in his lifetime that the abridgement was far more to do with concentrating on the entries that demonstrated her art and intellect as a writer so that her reputation could be restored. It seems remarkable to me that this might need to be done, but in fact through the 50’s and 60‘s Woolf was not widely read and no university taught her work. She had lost her rating as a writer in the vanguard of modernism and English literature. And so the published diary accompanied her return to recognition; in the 80’s the full diaries were published for the first time and she become reinstated as a great writer.
Woolf teaches the 21C writer through humility and humanity. She feels ‘like us’; we can empathize on the depressions and mood swings of a writer’s life...I’m a deal happier at 38 than I was at 28; and happier today than I was yesterday having this afternoon arrived at some idea of a new form for a new novel...(January 26th 1920)..the creative power that bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in...(May 11th 1920) I expect I could have screwed Jacob up tighter if I had foreseen, but I had to make my path as I went...(October 29th 1922 – all referring to Jacob’s Room). Sometimes she witnessess and records things that feel historic...It is a decaying village (Rodmell) which loses its boys to the town. Not a boy of them, said the Rev. Mr. Hawkesford, is being taught the plough. Rich people wanting weekend cottages buy up the old peasants' houses for fabulous sums...(September 25th 1927)
Although she is modest in her own appraisal of her writing, clues to the homilies people have recently paid to Wolfe can be spotted. I was gripped to read on June 19th 1923...But now what do I feel about my writing?–this book, that is The Hours, if that’s its name?...Finally, Woof called the book she was writing Mrs Dalloway, but that The Hours was the title Michael Cunningham chose for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about three generations of women affected by Mrs Dalloway. 
Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m often amazed at how organized she was. On April 12 1919, she wrote...Moll Flanders, which I finished yesterday in accordance with my time sheet...Not everyone likes to be so regimented in their work, but any of my students who have suggested to me that they can’t get a routine going will know I do recommend using tick lists, time sheets, work diaries and pie charts to get motivated – I would certainly recommend reading A Writer’s Diary as a wonderful way to inspire your own writing, and one of my OCA students, Helen Steadman, has been doing just that...
I’ve had a Virginia Woolf splurge this month...she wrote to me... I particularly liked Woolf’s discussions about using her notebook and especially her entry on 20 January 1919 which talks about her freewriting leading to “the diamonds of the dustheap”...She went on to say how the diary contained lots of very useful nuggets of advice on writing generally and this led to me reading To the Lighthouse and Orlando....which has provided some helpful lessons in bending the boundaries of life writing and I was inspired by Woolf’s amusing observation that when the facts aren’t there, sometimes the writer has to make them up... Helen quotes Woolf in Orlando...We have done our best to piece out a meagre summary from the charred fragments that remain; but often it has been necessary to speculate, to surmise, and even to use the imagination...explaining how this affected her  her own writing... With this in mind, I have conflated a number of events to create a more focused story... bringing techniques from fiction, I’ve used some stream-of-consciousness to try to convey the strangeness I felt ...

 I can’t recommend Woolf’s diaries highly enough to any writer; it won’t matter one whit if you’ve not read anything else of her work...although reading the diary may entice you into the marvel of her novels. Perhaps we should end with Virginia's words; a marvellous description of the June 1927 eclipse of the sun...In our carriage were Vita, Harold, Quentin, Leonard and I. This is Hatfield, I daresay, I said. I was smoking a cigar...so we plunged through the midlands; made a very long stay at York. Then at 3 we got out our sandwhiches and I came in from the W.C to find Harold being rubbed clean of cream....We got out (at Barton Fell, Yorkshire) and found ourselves very high, on a moor, boggy, heathery, with butts for grouse shooting...We could see a gold spot where the sun was, but it was early yet. We had to wait, stamping to keep warm...Then, for a moment, we saw the sun, sweeping - it seemed to be sailing at a great pace and clear in a gap; we got out our smoked glasss; we saw it, crescent, burning red; next moment it had sailed fast into the cloud again; only the red streamers came from it; then only a golden haze, such as one has often seen. The moments were passing. We felt cheated; we looked at the sheep; they showed no fear; the setters were racing round; everyone was standing in long lines, rather dignified, looking out. I thought how we were very like old people, in the birth of the world - druids on Stonehenge. At the back of us were blue spaces in the cloud. These were still blue. But now, the colour going out. The clouds were turning pale; a reddish black colour. Down in the valley it was an extraordinary scrumble of red and black; there was the one light burning; all was cloud down there, and very beautiful, so delicately tinted. Nothing could be seen through the cloud. The 24 seconds were passing. Then one looked back again at the blue; rapidly, very very quickly, all the colours faded; it became darker and darker as at the beginning of a violent storm; the light sank; we kept saying this is the shadow; and we thought now it is over - this is the shadow; when suddenly the light went out. We had fallen. It was extinct. There was no colour. The earth was dead. That was the astonishing moment; and the next when as if a ball had rebounded the cloud took colour on itself again, only a sparky ethereal colour and so the light came back. I had very strongly the feeling as the light went out of some vast obeisance; something kneeling down and suddenly raised up when the colours came. They came back astonishingly lightly and quickly and beautifully in the valley and over the hills - at first with a miraculous glittering and ethereality, later normally almost, but with a great sense of relief. If was like a recovery.