Virginia Woolf’s Powerful Words On Loneliness And Creativity


By Raven Fon

We have all known loneliness. Whether it is experienced during moments of solitude, or when we are surrounded by a crowd, loneliness can be a languishing familiarity.

There have been many great thinkers who have shared their wisdom on the subject of loneliness. Perhaps the most fluent in matters of  longing, connection, and escape, was profound writer, Virginia Woolf.

In A Writer’s Diary, Woolf articulates with stunning lucidity ” the paradoxes of aging, the elasticity of time, the key to lasting relationships, and the creative benefits of keeping a diary.” She gives us a deeper understanding of the connection between loneliness and creativity- where some of our greatest masterpieces are born.

The following excerpts from Wollf’s personal journal gives insight into the relationship between the thoughts we have in silence, and the genius that is realized afterwards.

“Often down here I have entered into a sanctuary … of great agony once; and always some terror; so afraid one is of loneliness; of seeing to the bottom of the vessel. That is one of the experiences I have had here in some Augusts; and got then to a consciousness of what I call “reality”: a thing I see before me: something abstract; but residing in the downs or sky; beside which nothing matters; in which I shall rest and continue to exist. Reality I call it. And I fancy sometimes this is the most necessary thing to me: that which I seek. But who knows — once one takes a pen and writes? How difficult not to go making “reality” this and that, whereas it is one thing. Now perhaps this is my gift: this perhaps is what distinguishes me from other people: I think it may be rare to have so acute a sense of something like that — but again, who knows? I would like to express it too.”

“These October days are to me a little strained and surrounded with silence. What I mean by this last word I don’t quite know, since I have never stopped “seeing” people… No, it’s not physical silence; it’s some inner loneliness.”

“I was walking up Bedford Place is it — the straight street with all the boarding houses this afternoon — and I said to myself spontaneously, something like this. How I suffer. And no one knows how I suffer, walking up this street, engaged with my anguish, as I was after Thoby [Woolf’s brother] died — alone; fighting something alone. But then I had the devil to fight, and now nothing. And when I come indoors it is all so silent — I am not carrying a great rush of wheels in my head — yet I am writing… And it is autumn; and the lights are going up… and this celebrity business is quite chronic — and I am richer than I have ever been — and bought a pair of earrings today — and for all this, there is vacancy and silence somewhere in the machine. On the whole, I do not much mind; because what I like is to flash and dash from side to side, goaded on by what I call reality. If I never felt these extraordinarily pervasive strains — of unrest or rest or happiness or discomfort — I should float down into acquiescence. Here is something to fight; and when I wake early I say to myself Fight, fight. If I could catch the feeling, I would; the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world… Anything is possible. And this curious steed, life, is genuine. Does any of this convey what I want to say? But I have not really laid hands on the emptiness after all.”

A Writer’s Diary remains one of the most psychologically insightful and beautifully crafted packets of human thought and feeling ever bound between two covers,” says Maria Popova.

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