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Diary

Ur A Writer’s Diary : Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf, Mariner Books, 2003:

Since I wrote, which is these last months, Jacques Raverat has died; after longing to die; and he sent me a letter about Mrs. Dalloway which gave me one of the happiest days of my life. I wonder if this time I have achieved something? Well, nothing anyhow compared with Proust, in whom I am embedded right now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly’s bloom.

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The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw.

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Then I like his inquisitive human sympathies: history so dull because of its battles and laws; and sea voyages in books so dull because the traveller will describe beauties instead of going into the cabins and saying what the sailors looked like, wore, eat, said; how they behaved.

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What I feel is that it is a hard muscular book, which at this age proves that I have something in me.

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I should say a good deal about The Hours and my discovery: how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters: I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect and each comes to daylight at the present moment.

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I have to husband my head still very carefully: but then, as I said to Leonard today, I enjoy epicurean ways of society; sipping and then shutting my eyes to taste.

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I want to read largely and freely once; then to niggle over details.

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Away from facts; free; yet concentrated; prose yet poetry; a novel and a play.

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As for Mary’s party, there, save for the usual shyness about powder, paint, shoes and stockings, I was happy, owing to the supremacy of literature. This keeps us sweet and sane.

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Read some Dante and Bridges, without troubling to understand, but got pleasure from them.

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As I am not going to milk my brains for a week, I shall here write the first pages of the greatest book in the world. This is what the book would be that was made entirely solely and with integrity of one’s thoughts. Suppose one could catch them before they became ”works of art”? Catch them hot and sudden as they rise in the mind – walking up Asheham hill for instance. Of course one cannot; for the process of language is slow and deluding. One must stop to find a word. Then, there is the form of the sentence, soliciting one to fill it.

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And I want to write another four novels: Waves, I mean; and the Tap on the Door; and to go through English literature, like a string through cheese, or rather like some industrious insect, eating its way from book to book, from Chaucer to Lawrence.

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