Day 13,756: Beauty illumines these fools
I name this day in honor of Virginia Woolf’s essay on Jane Austen from The Common Reader, which I began reading on the train home last night, amidst all this eager snow.
While the whole book is a wonder, oh, something takes over when she begins to write about Jane Austen! I found myself circling and underlining nearly everything, including the quote that gives this day its name. I may need to share more of these quotes, but for all of my fellow writers, I first share this passage from about an unfinished work of Austen’s that lacks her usually polished beginnings. It is as good a hymn to rewrites as I have read (emphasis mine):
“To begin with, the stiffness and the bareness of the first chapters prove that she was one of those writers who lay their facts out rather baldly in the first version and then go back and back and back and cover them with flesh and atmosphere. How it would have been done we cannot say — by what suppressions and insertions and artful devices. But the miracle would have been accomplished; the dull history of fourteen years of family life would have been converted into another of those exquisite and apparently effortless introductions; and we should never have guessed what pages of preliminary drudgery Jane Austen forced her pen to go through. Here we perceive that she was no conjuror after all. Like other writers, she had to create the atmosphere in which her own peculiar genius could bear fruit. Here she fumbles; here she keeps us waiting. Suddenly she has done it; now things can happen as she likes things to happen.“
As someone with a daunting deal of rewrites ahead, I take this as a vital reminder of why they’re so important: a good play may survive a bad beginning, a troubled middle (though never a broken end), but a great play demands this drudgery, this going back and back, these artful devices, to reach that blessed moment when things happen as we like them to happen.
More thoughts on this extraordinary essay in the days to come.
Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…
Writing: 2 out of the last 2 days (Up to page 63 of Be Happy Be Happy Be Happy, plotting for Faust)
Spanish: 1 out of 2 days
What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?)
- Launched part 2 of An Ideal Theater blog salon–please participate in this, all you visionary theatre people!
- Signed this petition to end the use of dolphins as shark bait in Peru.
- Made/ate home-cooked, mostly vegan, mostly organic food, and created no additional direct waste from plastic bags, etc.
- Signed this petition asking Jeff Mackey of Whole Foods to reconsider his public misrepresentation of the Affordable Care Act
- Had a phone meeting with Marielle Duke to discuss our 2014 timeline for the Adaptive Arts Faust–excited!
- Committed to working with Emily’s List to support progressive women candidates for the House
- Posted the photos from the Flux Family Feud (they’re fun).
- Asked my reps in Congress to ban the use of untested drugs on inmates, particularly in the application of the barbaric death penalty.
- Word on language/timeline for clarifying TCG’s intersectional approach to the Diversity & Inclusion Initiative.
- Wrote up to page 63 of Be Happy Be Happy Be Happy.