Wednesday 10 September 2014

Woolf Knew All About the Agony of Creativity

The Young Woolf (Wikimedia Commons)
Virginia Woolf was prolific not because she could sidestep the anguish of writing but because she did so much writing that she experienced it.

In her pseudobiography Orlando, Woolf describes what the title character inevitably experiences once he decides to be a writer:

Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted his people's parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and the pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.

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