Virginia Woolf on herself and writing
Often when I have been writing one of my so-called novels I have been baffled by this same problem; that is, how to describe what I call in my private shorthand – “non-being.” Every day includes more non-being than being.
A great part of every day is not lived consciously. One walks, eats, sees things, deals with what has to be done; the broken vacuum cleaner; ordering dinner; writing orders to Mabel; washing; cooking dinner; bookbinding. When it is a bad day, the proportion of non-being is much larger.
As a child then, my days, just as they do now, contained a large proportion of this cotton wool, this non-being. Week after week passed at St. Ives and nothing made any dint upon me. Then, for no reason that I know about, there was a sudden, violent shock;
I feel that I have had a blow; but it is not, as I thought as a child, simply a blow from an enemy hidden behind the cotton wool of daily life; it is or will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it into words. It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; this wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together. Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what; making a scene come right; making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; … that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we-I mean all human beings-are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art.
Am I alone in my egotism when I say that never does the pale light of dawn filter through the blinds of 72 Tavistock square but I open my eyes and exclaim, “Good God! Here I am again!” – not always with pleasure, often with pain; sometimes with an acute spasm of disgust – but always with interest.