“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens it’s wings on the stake. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf
I first read Virginia Woolf studying women’s literature in college. She was wonderful and mysterious to me, she said things I had always felt but rarely could put words to. Back then I was moving more blindly through the world, kind of groping along like a lot of twenty-somethings, with all my own odd thoughts and feelings. I found a soul-mate within the pages of her work, in the powerful interior life she cultivated and experienced.
Her writing isn’t so exciting or impressive because of the particular stories she tells. It’s how she tells them, her use of language, the way she strings words and thoughts across the page that are most impressive.
When I read the quote above I could feel in the flow of it exactly what she meant. I was there with her, I was the seabird. That rhythm of language, of making words an art in themselves, I realized has really influenced my own writing. I can hear it even now as I write this sentence, the ups and downs of sounds, the pauses with punctuation, the spaces in between sentences.
She was one of the earliest pioneers of stream-of-consciousness writing, a style that is particularly interesting again today when so much of the writing online seems to be moving in that direction. Though her life and end read as rather sad sometimes, her writing is what I remember best. Anytime I want I can open up one of her novels or books of essays and find her, sit down with her at the table and pick up our conversation once again.