If Virginia Woolf Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You?

Virginia Woolf jotted down story ideas, lines, scribbles, when they came to her, then stuffed them into a drawer and went back to whatever she was doing. She’d return to those pieces when it was time to start a new project and work on developing them.

Did Virginia Woolf wash dishes? I don’t DO dishes, Beeach.

I read that tidbit in Women Writer’s at Work, one of the best collections of interviews about craft and the ritual/practical process(es) of writing, and every time I stop doing dishes long enough to record an idea, usually without taking off the dish-gloves, I assure myself that of course I’ll go back and finish it. Some day. Even as I experience the momentary heartache of not being able to drop everything right now to write the entire thing (story, novel, poem, blog post…) beginning to end without needing to eat, sleep, feed the children, go to work, brush my hair, or have a single distracting interaction with the outside world until the entire thing, the brilliant, demanding little beast, is captured and caged in neat bars of words across a page… even as I close that drawer and return to soapy knives, I can assure myself that this isn’t some kind of deluded procrastination, putting it off, saving it for later, but part of the natural writing process. It’s how Virginia Woolf rolled.

Let’s be realistic, it takes no time to envision a novel. My mind will capture the essence, the story arc, and a few of the main characters in the space of seconds. But if I turned on my laptop and sat down to simply outline that vision, it would take at least half a day. At least!

Putting it away for later is better than not recording it at all, but if the ideas over-accumulate, it’s the equivalent of having too many pretty butterflies scritch-scratching in your gut. Retching is inevitable.

You know what I mean. If I don’t actually do something about all those ideas, I just start feeling pukey. And so, this being the time of year for resolutions, I have recently made a list of lists categorized by lists in list order because this is going to be the year when I FINISH some things. Namely:

  • Of the 4 novels I am ‘mostly’ done with, at least one will be polished to a high gloss.
  • Of the countless short stories in my hanging files, at least 2 will be combed into a perfect center part and sent off to college. Lit mags beware.
  • Of the flash pieces conceived on disreputable midnight trysts involving chilled vodka, hopefully I can find good homes for at least 5. They really are such well behaved children (meds not included).
  • And poems. Well, I will look in my drawer for some ideas to pull together into a submissible grouping. 4 is a good number. 4 poems that go well together to send in a bundle. That’s it.

The gloves are off!
A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf


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