Julie Christine's Reviews > A Writer's Diary

A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf
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it was amazing
bookshelves: bio-autobio-memoir, classic, writing-companions, best-of-2015, read-2015

My copy of A Writer's Diary—I tried to post a photo, but Goodreads just couldn't deal with whatever it was I had to offer—has a forest of little tags poking out from the side. All the passages I've marked.

As a writer, I move between despair and joy on a daily basis. A good day of writing leaves me scoured clean and refilled with peace;

There is some ebb and flow of the tide of life which accounts for it; though what produces either ebb or flow I'm not sure.

but the stress of rejection and of praise is such an invasion of the external world into my inner equilibrium.

...the worst of writing is that one depends so much upon praise. One should aim, seriously, as disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, silence there.

The only way to right the imbalance is to shut out the world and offer myself up to the page. To sit and write until my limbs are stiff, my eyes ache, my brain empties out.

The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial.

Then, to take a walk, letting the words sift from my head down to my toes. When I return home, I have room for the words of others.

The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature.

A Writer's Diary show the decades of a writer's life unfolding in real time: the highs and near-shame of success; the deep, quiet pleasures of the life of the mind; the fear and resignation of failure, which is usually far more a product of the writer's imagination than of the external world.

Arrange whatever pieces come your way. Never be unseated by the shying of that undependable brute, life, hag-ridden as she is by my own queer, difficult, nervous system.

What would Woolf make of the cult of personality she has become?

Now I suppose I might become one of the interesting–I will not say great–but interesting novelists?

What would we have made of her work, what more could she have offered us, if mental illness had not had the final say, if she could have found her way to a different final chapter?

A thousand things to be written had I time; had I power. A very little writing uses up my capacity for writing.

I remarked to another writer what an inspiration this book is to me, what comfort I have found in Woolf's own struggles and doubts. She reminded me how things ended for Woolf. That she took her own life. How strange a response. She missed the point entirely. Instead of being haunted by Woolf's end, I think of Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day" Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Oliver asks.

Here is how Woolf would have answered:

Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on for ever; will last for ever; goes down to the bottom of the world—the moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. I shall pass like a cloud on the waves.

Virginia Woolf passed like a cloud on the waves. But her words have become moments upon which we all stand, strengthened, made taller by the foundation of her genius. And we look up at those clouds, mouthing, Thank you.
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2015 – Shelved
March 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 14, 2015 – Started Reading
September 14, 2015 – Shelved as: bio-autobio-memoir
September 14, 2015 – Shelved as: classic
September 14, 2015 – Shelved as: writing-companions
September 14, 2015 –
page 15
4.23% ""What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind,""
September 15, 2015 –
page 54
15.21% ""...the worst of writing is that one depends so much upon praise. One should aim, seriously, as disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, silence there." \n \n "The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature."\n \n Virginia, you are reading my soul."
September 16, 2015 –
page 71
20.0% "'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 a butterfly's bloom. And he will, I suppose, both influence me and make me out of temper with every sentence of my own.'"
September 17, 2015 –
page 98
27.61% ""The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial." \n \n "Arrange whatever pieces come your way. Never be unseated by the shying of that undependable brute, life, hag-ridden as she is by my own queer. difficult, nervous system."\n \n "Now I suppose I might become one of the interesting–I will not say great–but interesting novelists?"\n \n VIRGINIA, YOU ROCK."
September 22, 2015 –
page 125
35.21% "'Women haters depress me and both Tolstoi and Mrs. Asquith hate women. I suppose my depression is a form of vanity. But then so are all strong opinions on both sides.'"
September 23, 2015 –
page 138
38.87% "'Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on for ever; will last for ever; goes down to the bottom of the world—the moment I stand on. Also it is transitory, flying, diaphanous. I shall pass like a cloud on the waves.'"
September 24, 2015 –
page 181
50.99% "'I read Shakespeare directly I have finished writing (sic). When my mind is agape and red-hot. Then it is astonishing. This is not "writing" at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether, if I knew what I meant.'\n \n '...now, aged 50, I'm just poised to shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are.""
September 26, 2015 –
page 241
67.89% "'I don't believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun.'"
September 27, 2015 –
page 278
78.31% ""One thing I think proved, I shall never write to "please," to convert; now am entirely and for ever my own mistress.""
September 28, 2015 – Shelved as: best-of-2015
September 28, 2015 – Shelved as: read-2015
September 28, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Julie, about the remark your friend made... Don't you find that many people perceive writers and artists as "fragile" on some ways? Even if you think it's Shylock, The Artist's Way harps on how often we think of creatives as one step away from the looney bin at all times. Or the drunk tank.

Here's s question: Would Virginia Woolf, born into our time, still be make you feel the same way? Or is it that she's speaking through time and space to you?


message 2: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany not Shylock --spell check, hah, but "schlock "


message 3: by Julie Christine (last edited Oct 13, 2015 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julie Christine Tiffany wrote: "Julie, about the remark your friend made... Don't you find that many people perceive writers and artists as "fragile" on some ways? Even if you think it's Shylock, The Artist's Way harps on how oft..."

What a great question, Tiffany. Yes, I think that comes from so many of us living lives of the mind. Not every writer is an introvert, but many of us are. Many creative types- all genres of artists-whom I know live with some degree of anxiety, depression. A few struggle with addiction. It seems so cliche, doesn't it? I LOVE the Artist's Way :) Julia Cameron brought me to writing years and years ago- helped me channel some of that swirling internal energy into a creative practice.

Also interesting to ponder VW as a 21st century writer... I think the beauty of A Writer's Diary is seeing the scope of a writer's life over several decades. And she wrote in an era where one's inner life was so much less accessible than now. I certainly think she wrote with an eye on her legacy- it's not wholly unselfconscious- but her thoughts are far less polished than if she were writing a blog or posting epiphanies to Facebook. Yet, her insecurity and angst are still so relatable and relevant. Her worries about sales echo what authors continue to struggle with. It's amazing to see how little has changed over the years.

And the sheer beauty of her language. You rarely encounter that any more.

I need to think about this some more. WOW!!


message 4: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Oh in so glad I didn't set you off by mentioning TAW, which has a surprising number of detractors.

Yes, VWs language was beautiful!! Sometimes when I read writers from the early 20th century I feel that was the Renaissance for writing, and since then we have more psychologically aware authors but so many fewer with the skill to make us fall in love with words.


message 5: by Debbie (new) - added it

Debbie Excellent review, Julie. I must reread this one; loved the quotes you pulled out. My daughter, a "fragile" and struggling artist and writer, was born exactly 100 years after VW, to the day. I love this eerie connection.


Julie Christine Tiffany wrote: "Oh in so glad I didn't set you off by mentioning TAW, which has a surprising number of detractors.

Yes, VWs language was beautiful!! Sometimes when I read writers from the early 20th century I fe..."



Oh yes. I feel that way about Thomas Hardy (and I love when Woolf writes about him in her diary- he, the elder statesman, she, the young upstart!)


Julie Christine Debbie wrote: "Excellent review, Julie. I must reread this one; loved the quotes you pulled out. My daughter, a "fragile" and struggling artist and writer, was born exactly 100 years after VW, to the day. I love ..."

That's a beautiful connection, Debbie. I'd love to meet your daughter. Peace and resilience to her.


Cheryl Beautiful review, Julie.


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "Beautiful review, Julie." Thank you, Cheryl!


message 10: by Debbie "DJ" (new)

Debbie "DJ" Wonderful review, and wonderful writing Julie...or, shall I just remain silent.


Julie Christine Debbie "DJ" wrote: "Wonderful review, and wonderful writing Julie...or, shall I just remain silent." NO! Keep talking :D xoxoxo


message 12: by Carol (new)

Carol As always, you have written a beautiful review, Julie. I look forward to your upcoming book!


message 13: by Debbie "DJ" (new)

Debbie "DJ" Can I echo Carol's comment that I can't wait to read your book...and that I think you're an incredible writer! Hugs to you :)


Julie Christine Thank you. Thank you so much. You've both made my day!


message 15: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Oh wow Julie...this lovely tribute and reflection brought a tear to my eye. So sad and lovely.


Julie Christine Jaidee wrote: "Oh wow Julie...this lovely tribute and reflection brought a tear to my eye. So sad and lovely." xoxo Thank you. I'll be coming back to this book again and again.


message 17: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Healing Thank you so much for your wonderful and well written review Julie ... "moments which we all stand, made taller by the fellowship of like minded journalists" :) Now I must read this book :) do you have any other recommendations ? I would like to follow your leads <3


Julie Christine Victoria wrote: "Thank you so much for your wonderful and well written review Julie ... "moments which we all stand, made taller by the fellowship of like minded journalists" :) Now I must read this book :) do you ..."
Oh thank you, Victoria! I've always got my nose buried in a book-just take a look through my virtual shelves and start pulling down volumes! I wouldn't know where to begin. It's lovely to meet you!


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