Growing up among Southern Baptists in Florida, Virginia’s writing style was unlike other authors I had been exposed to in my youth. Taking English honors classes in high school, I enjoyed reading the classics and writing essays on famous works of fiction. Woolf fiction had a free-flow style that broke all the rules. I would have loved to have been taught about her life and writing accomplishments in an academic setting. However, she didn’t make the literary lists given to me by my teachers.
It was up to me to discover the best writer in history, on my own.
I started reading Woolf journals and books of letters in my early twenties. Her books explored her life during the early 1900s. As an avid journal-keeper and a lover of hand-written letters, I was hooked on her non-fiction. I felt she spoke directly to me as her words continuously drew me into her world.
In high school, I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Both are amazing books, written by exceptional writers. Yet, they didn’t capture the creative mind of a woman in a way that was relatable to me. Perhaps I was too young and naïve in high school to have fully appreciated the literary genius that Woolf is. Her words may have frustrated me as Shakespeare did. I loved the romantic language of Shakespeare but at the time, I wanted more direct language. I loved poetry but I had not been in love, so I was unfamiliar with that high feeling which transcends the reader in both of these writer’s works.
Woolf fiction was hard for me to follow. Her stream of consciousness writes like a song. If one wanted to fully grasp the essence of Virginia, they must read all of her works. Her letters paint a picture of her daily life and how she expressed herself to her friends and family. Her journals share of her longings, her duties in writing, and the Hogarth Press. Her fiction books were the product of her creative intelligence, presenting her imagination to the world. She was a complex woman, revealing many sides of her personality through her writing.
Mrs. Dalloway became a household name with the release of the film The Hours, in 2002.
The first line in the book, Mrs. Dalloway, continues to inspire me.
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
As a writer, I struggle with writing the first chapter of a book. Well, it’s not the writing part I struggle with the most, it’s the compulsion to re-write that first chapter that plagues me. That first paragraph has to draw the reader in. This first sentence in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway brings me into her world. She doesn’t fill it with fluff by letting me know about her lifestyle, her family dynamics, or what her house looks like. She goes right into the present moment, as she does so well with her writing style.
To the Lighthouse gives us a glimpse into the lives of men and women in a way that women were rarely seen in the early 1900s. The viewpoints of women by men, told by an accomplished writer such as Woolf, allows us to feel what it was like.
“We might all sit down and cry, she felt. But she did not know what for.”
How real and vulnerable of a statement! She doesn’t feel a need to explain any further and so we are left with this wondering.
“But the stillness and the brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible.”
Writers cannot always paint scenes with their words like Virginia could. This long, run-on sentence with so many commas brings me right there into the light with the flowers and the trees. I can feel the mood she is describing.
A Room of One’s Own continues with her free-flow writing style. This book was based on two papers she wrote. They were quite too long to read in full at the Arts Society and were turned into a book. I relate to this whole concept, as I struggle with condensing my writing, wanting to get all of my thoughts onto the page.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
What I find funny about this statement is she talks about a particular meal that she was served for two whole pages. The boring, clear soup that has nothing fancy to stir in it. Beef, potatoes, and greens sound wonderful to me but she was dissatisfied with the ordinary style of which it was served. Then she mentions prunes for after dinner. Prunes are no delicacy. I get it!
She seems to write every thought in her head about the mundane moments of her life in a way that gives me solace. I am not alone in this world. My innermost thoughts are not especially unique. We all ruminate on the little details. We all want more. We all critique ourselves and others too much.
She published 11 books in her lifetime, which was not an easy task for someone with mental health issues. She continued pursuing creative projects up until she died at the age of 59. Virginia committed suicide by putting rocks in the pockets of her coat, drowning in the River Ouse. This ended her writing career abruptly, forever closing all remaining chapters of her life. I will never fully know the Virginia that has continuously intrigued me my whole adult life, but she will remain my muse, my hero, and my inspiration.
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About The Blogger
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden lives and breathes in warm Gainesville, Florida. You will find her writing at an outdoor cafe or on her expansive back porch, always with hot tea or chilled kombucha to keep the creative juices flowing. Anastacia is a writer & editor, a matchmaker & a Licensed Midwife. She enjoys writing articles, books, and ghostwriting on various projects. She writes articles on health, vulnerability, empowerment, yoga, mindfulness, social/emotional learning, travel, nutrition, pregnancy, parenting, feminism, natural remedies, and emotional health. She has three books in various stages of editing. She is the author of Greater Than A Tourist: Gainesville, Florida. She makes art with found objects, cooks delicious and organic whole foods, practices yoga, exercises outside, travels, and writes daily as her passion.
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