A Writer's Diary

A Writer's Diary

Being Extracts From the Diary of Virginia Woolf

Book - 1982
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An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a Preface by Leonard Woolf; Indices.
Publisher: San Diego :, Harcourt,, [1982]
Copyright Date: ©1982
ISBN: 9780156027915
Branch Call Number: 823.912 Woolf
Characteristics: x, 355 pages ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Woolf, Leonard 1880-1969,- Editor

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jstalmer
Oct 02, 2019

I had forgotten just how meaningful it was to read Woolf’s diary entries that involved her writing and literature. Any writer, whether they have read her works or not, will find this book useful. I plan to read it at least yearly (as I do “Alice in Wonderland”). It gave me such courage, as the genius Woolf shared her insecurities and how she worked through her novels. I have most of her works and have read most many times. I felt the tug to read them from the beginning alongside her diaries (or at least the writers diary that her husband was kind enough to gather for public view).

The diary strips Woolf and her works naked. It does it in such a way that it makes one more in awe of her talent, because while I still consider her a genius, these diary entries remind me that she was flesh and blood with the same doubts that I have about my gifts as a writer. Writing is both easy and hard for Woolf. Easy because she lived and breathed it and hard for the same reason.

Her writer’s life is laid bare as she writes and publishes her first novel and up until she lays down her pen after finishing her last (published after her death). This book lets us in behind the curtain of one of literary’s greatest writers. I put her up there with Shakespeare, though she would vehemently disagree with me on that count (we know because she speaks of it).

There are so many poignant moments in this book, too many to count. Toward the end, the war to come and the war that finds itself on Woolf’s doorstep is a heavy reminder of what is to come in her own life. It’s as if the drama playing out in the world was mirrored within her very being. Her jottings of Hitler were spot on and made me think of Trump. Woolf saw Hitler as a little man, one that was a master of distraction. She had his number. She had Trump’s number too, even though she died a few years before he was born.

This is a reread, but for the first time I read the whole thing out loud. I was moved to for some reason. It was well worth the time. It helped me hear her voice more clearly. It illuminated things I had missed before. Though, I’m a different person than the girl that first read this gem. I understood on a deeper level some of the things she wrote and some I understood for the first time.

As the years moved on from 1913, I couldn’t help counting down how much time she had left. She left me with enough works to read but I can’t help but think about the cards she left on the table. She had more in her to write, but as she wrote in her diary, no writer has enough time to write or read all that they want in one lifetime. I know the feeling.

The next time I read this one, I will take note of the things that struck me most. I didn’t this time as I wanted to just soak her in before I got down to the business of working on a novel. Or as Woolf does - giving it my undivided attention. That is the best thing that struck me about reading this book, the amount of herself that she gave to all her works. She didn’t just dive deep, she gave everything she was to her writing. Something I don’t think she did to anything or anyone else.

She showed how she embraced what every writer should do: read more than you write. Throughout her diaries, she would write and then she would read. She knew the layering of this practice only made one a better writer and was important to help one come back to one’s work with fresh eyes.

After I read the last entry, I was struck how a writer’s life might look boring to someone without a writer’s bent. It looks to me to be the most adventurous one can live. It also struck me that if Woolf and I were living in the same time, I would finally feel worthy enough to ask her to tea, while also knowing it would exhaust us both. Unless, we drank our tea in silence and allowed the silent conversation that was swirling around us to take the lead.

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