I often wonder what Virginia Woolf would be writing about today. I wonder what direction she would be taking, how she would adapt to this digital age of publishing. How the Hogarth Press would respond. I like to imagine myself reading Woolf’s tweets! I miss her style of writing that captures “the under-layers of consciousness”.
Did Woolf’s fear of being judged contribute to her mental breakdown as Tess Hadley suggests in her review of Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris?
All writers fear judgement from some quarter. Judgment of critics, readers, family, friends, but mostly themselves. Maybe for Woolf, “no matter how defiantly Woolf invented her own more flexible forms of life (and writing), some painful fracture seemed to endure in her.”
The whole book writing process is a process of healing the fracture, of bringing to form and life something that is hidden. To seal up the cracks, and at the same time to expose the rawness and bloodiness of the wound. This is what the publishing process is like from conception through to publication. The writer must be ruthless – to meet deadlines, to cut unnecessary words from the text, to challenge the status quo, to rummage through the ordinary and find the vintage meaning. To be both inventor and reformer.
Writing is like parenting. In the role of the writer there is a need to be both the creative artist who imagines and conjures up a new world, and the disciplinarian who organises and manages the material. Sometimes the job is a joy, you find the word you are looking for that sells the prose. Other times facing the page feels like an impossible challenge because you can never say what your imagination sees, hears, feels.
Some days all the words look jumbled, and meaning is hiding out, and the truth is not on the page but in your head. Those are hard days.