Virginia Woolf On Writing Quickly

"One thinks one has learnt to write quickly; and one hasn’t."

- Virginia Woolf, 11 Oct 1929, as she worked slowly, slowly through the first starts of what would become her novel The Waves. (Which would take her two years

Virginia Woolf on writing fast

One thinks one has learnt to write quickly; and one hasn’t.

Virginia Woolf, 11 Oct 1929, as she moves slowly through the first starts of what would become her novel The Waves. Which would take her two years.

Virginia Woolf is happy, but not with D.H. Lawrence, not at all

In the fall of 1932, the same year she fell apart in March and fainted in August, Virginia Woolf went on a happy compositional tear in October and November, writing 60,000 words in about 60 days. “All flowing into the stream of its own accord,” as she put it elsewhere. Amid this she recorded this happiness:

I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.… >I’m interested in watching what goes on for the moment without wishing to take part — a good frame of mind when one’s conscious of power. Then I am backed now by the downs: The country: how happy L. and I are at Rodmell: what a free life that is—sweeping 30 or 40 miles; coming in when and how we like; sleeping in the empty house; dealing triumphantly with interruptions; and diving daily into that divine loveliness— always some walk; and the gulls on the purple plough; or going over to Tarring Neville—these are the flights I most love now— in the wide, the indifferent air. No being jerked, teased, tugged.

… and then, irritated with D.H. Lawrence’s *Letters*, finishes the diary entry by giving him a good proper spanking.

It’s harrowing: this panting effort after something…the brutality of civilized society to this panting agonized man: and how futile it was. All this makes certain gasping in his letters. And none of it seems essential. So he pants and jerks. Then too I don’t like strumming with two fingers— and the arrogance. After all, English has one million words: why confine yourself to 6? and praise yourself of so doing.… >And why does Aldous say he was an “artist”? Art is being rid of all preaching.
“Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down.”
— Virginia Woolf, in her penultimate diary entry, 8 March 1941. Four years earlier she had written, “Nothing is real unless I write it down.”

Virginia Woolf faints

This from her diary, Wednesday, August 17th, 1932. She had been depressed that spring, but was recovered and would soon go on a writing tear. But this summer day something went amiss.

>Shall I then describe how I fainted again? That is the galloping hooves got wild in my head last Thursday night as I sat on the terrace with L. How cool it is after the heat! I said. We were watching the downs draw back into fine darkness after they had burnt like solid emerald all day. Now that was being softly finally failed. And the white owl was crossing to fetch mice from the marsh. Then my heart leapt: and stopped: and leapt again: and I tasted that queer bitterness at the back of my throat; and the pulse leapt into my head and beat and beat, more savagely, more quickly. I am going to faint, I said, and slipped off my chair and lay on the grass. Oh no, I was not unconscious. I was alive: but possessed with the struggling team in my head: galloping, pounding. I thought something will burst in my brain if this goes on. Slowly it muffled itself. I pulled myself up and staggered, with what infinite difficulty and alarm, now truly fainting and seeing the garden painfully lengthened and distorted, back, back, back, back—how long it seemed—could I drag myself?—to the house: and gained my room and fell on my bed. In pain, as of childbirth; and then that too slowly faded; and I lay presiding, like a flickering light, like a most solicitous mother, over the shattered splintered fragments of my body.
“The curation was probably the most difficult part of the entire exercise, but the most important: if you take and show a thousand excellent images, none will really stand out or be memorable. If you only show ten of those, they’ll be outstanding. Similarly, if you shoot a 990 crap images, but show the 10 good ones, nobody will suspect you’re not shooting like that most of the time. As photographers, we are only judged on what we show, not what we shoot*.”
The Havana Masterclass report – Ming Thein | Photographer Same goes for writing. It’s about revision as much as it is creation. Or: revision is creation.

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