Virginia Woolf on blogging


Well, not quite. But I’m re-reading her diaries and am coming towards the end of Volume 1 (1915-19) and in the entry for April 27, 1919 came on this meditation on diary-writing which in some ways might also be written about blogging.

Woolf had just finished writing a long article for some publication or other (one forgets what an assiduous literary hack she was), and then continues thus:

“In the idleness which succeeds any long article… I got out this diary, & read as one always does one’s own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity. I confess that the rough & random style of it, often so ungrammatical, & crying for a word altered, afflicted me somewhat. I am trying to tell whatever self it is that reads this hereafter that I can write very much better; & take no time over this; & forbid her to let the eye of man behold it. And now I may add my little compliment to the effect that it has a slapdash & vigour, & sometimes hits an unexpected bulls eye. But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practise [sic]. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses & the stumbles. Going at such a pace as I do I must make the most direct and instant shots at my object, & thus have to lay hands on words, choose them, & shoot them with no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink. I believe that during he past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my casual half hours after tea. Moreover there looms ahead of me the shadow of some kind of form which a diary might attain to. I might in the course of time learn what it is that one can make of this loose, drifting material of life; finding another use for it than the use I put it to, so much more consciously & scrupulously, in fiction. What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit, & yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace any thing, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds & ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, & find that the collection had sorted itself & refined itself & coalesced, as such deposits mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of ourr life, & yet steady, tranquil composed with the aloofness of a work of art.”

As a thought-experiment, I’ve tried to imagine Woolf as a blogger. My conclusion is that she would have made a terrific one. But of course she couldn’t have done it because her diaries are so suffused with critical (and often harsh) assessments of the people she knew, and so filled with gossip, that she would have had to retain a full-time libel lawyer.