Virginia Woolf teaches me to write

Read two and a half more years of Virginia Woolf’s diary today, wrote on the past four. I feel that she is really teaching me how to write, because what she does sounds like it would work well for me: “dash” everything down at the beginning, as slowly or as quickly as you can, and then “finick” later in the “arduous” and painful process of revising and revising and revising. (The quoted words are all hers.) She took three years to write The Waves — which at the time she felt was her masterpiece —  and only seven months of this was the first draft; another nine months, a second draft; then a couple of months of revising before submitting it for proofs. And as far as I can tell she didn’t write in order, either, writing bits and pieces and then only putting them all together at the end — often she had never read the whole thing from beginning to end until the final draft. These entries on The Waves are wonderfully instructive because she starts out hating the whole process and goes to not being able to get it out of her head — and ends by still not being able to get it out of her head, but feeling exhausted by it. Good reminder that writing is painful but fruitful; she says at the end that this is the best book yet and she’s finally figuring out how to say what she wants, and she respects herself for writing it — glory!

I’ve decided that if I am ever in a position to teach a class on writing or any art-making, we will read as many of these type of diaries as we can get our hands on, and from that learn how to write/create. I’d have appreciated such a book myself when I was taking any of my writing classes, and yet no one ever teaches writing technique because it’s unteachable — but this seems the best way to try.

I meant to have another 9-5 work day today but it’s nearly 5 o’clock and I’ve promised the after-5 time to Erik, so I’m clocking out now with very little under my belt. I did nearly five hours of exercise yesterday and they’ve left me sore and tired, and it’s hot today too, so much so that in spite of the curtains the heat seems to seep through the west doors and into my office. I suppose it’s late enough now that I should open the side windows. I got up very early, at six, but ended up having a nap from 9 to 12:30, so that all I’ve done today is read Virginia’s diary and write about it and do my morning pages. But that’ll do — I’m feeling inspired again, thanks to Virginia, so I’m in a good position to begin again tomorrow. After Lorien’s class I suppose, if I decide to go.