I signed up for a Stanford Continuing Studies online writing course, “The Gripping Read.” I’m trying to work on a new piece for the workshop. It flowed along fairly well for a few days, then Saturday, I had a very difficult time moving through a scene I was trying to write. Frank (the P.I.), and Vera, ( his ex-and-present lover and assistant), are trying to question a suspect in St. Francis Wood, a posh area of large homes. They go to one built against a hillside, a bit of a Spanish style that rises up, and they walk under a carriage house into a courtyard. There they see the suspect on the patio, one flight up. After a little banter she agrees to talk to them and walks across the patio and enters at the French doors. I had inordinate trouble with this. It must have taken me an hour and a half to put down 150 or so words. I struggled getting Frank and Vera invited up, and getting my suspect off her patio, and through the French doors to receive them. Even now, I’m considering chucking what I’ve written. It just wasn’t flowing.
But I saved that work and turned to the class reading which was from Frank Conroy’s Writers’ Workshop. I hadn’t seen this before but I very much liked it. Conroy breaks writing down to its most . . . elemental . . . elements, and he caught my fancy. Then he told a story of Virginia Woolf, who I believe played bass guitar for the Bloomsbury Group. Asked how her three hours of writing had gone one afternoon, she said, “Very well. I got them through the French doors and out onto the patio.”
My characters were going the other direction, but it was my Virginia Woolf moment.