I find Woolf herself a fascinating character study. Woolf once described the fashion in which she was preparing to write her next book in this way:
"As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall."
There is something exquisite in her description of the story idea as a fruit, hanging on the vine or tree, ripening, becoming sweet, becoming ready to be harvested. The act of holding back until the right moment, until the feeling is almost too much to bear, too much to keep to oneself, is provocative and sensual in a way that appeals to my sense of how a writer should feel about his or her work. The hour I've spent writing is nothing compared to the hours upon hours I've spent mulling over the story idea, turning it this way and that, waiting for it to ripen.
It makes me sad to think of how she took her own life out of despair and hopelessness, not so much for us as her readers but for her, that her act would cause her to miss the next developing fruit. If we keep the literary faith and our emotional faith, there is always that next great novel idea and that next turn in our life that brings a new chapter and, hopefully, a new ray of light. I felt much the same way the day I heard David Foster Wallace had taken his own life. My oldest brother was a talented writer and musician, and, sadly, a severe alcoholic, who (although we are unsure of all the facts) may have had a hand in his own death.
Okay, I totally didn't expect to be going down this path with this entry. But here I am. While I'm resisting a strong urge to delete the last paragraph, I'll keep it.
For your reading pleasure, I offer you a little taste of The Hours(which begins with Virginia Woolf's imagined last moments before walking into a river, her coat pocket weighted down with a large stone, to end her life), followed by a morsel of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Enjoy.
"She herself has failed. She is not a writer at all, really; she is merely a gifted eccentric. Patches of sky shine in puddles left over from last night's rain. Her shoes sink slightly into the soft earth. She has failed, and now the voices are back, muttering indistinctly just beyond the range of her vision, behind her, here, no, turn and they've gone somewhere else. The voices are back and the headache is approaching as surely as rain, the headache that will crush whatever is she and replace her with itself." - Michael Cunningham, The Hours
"Sinking her voice, drawing Mrs. Dalloway into the shelter of a common femininity, a common pride in the illustrious qualities of husbands and their sad tendency to overwork, Lady Bradshaw (poor goose -- one didn't dislike her) murmured how, "just as we were starting, my husband was called up on the telephone, a very sad case. A young man (that is what Sir William is telling Mr. Dalloway) had killed himself. He had been in the army." Oh! thought Clarissa, in the middle of my party, here's death, she thought." - Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Yes, sweet Clarissa, in the middle of our fine, little party, here is death.
Keep writing, friends. Keep the faith.