1937 Virginia Woolf Audio Meditation on Craftsmanship

The only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice, chalk full of wisdom on the art of craftsmanship in the art of writing.

A few excerpts:

Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations — naturally. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today — that they are so stored with meanings, with memories, that they have contracted so many famous marriages.”

“You cannot use a brand new word in an old language…Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.”

“A few trifling rules of grammar and spelling are all the constraint we can put on them…they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.”

Don’t confine yourself to these few teasers. Listen to the recording and read missing first part and the entire transcript at Brainpickings.

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