Orlando has been struggling a little with his identity, and has been comparing himself to an illustrious roll call of ancestors who have amassed an impressive heritage of exploits. None of these, however, he decides, have the immortal impact of the written word so he decides to become a writer …
He soon perceived, however, that the battles which Sir Miles and the rest had waged against armed knights to win a kingdom, were not half so arduous as this which he now undertook to win immortality against the English language. Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote it and it seemed good; read it and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted his people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the values of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world. (p. 50).
Orlando by Virginia Woolf, review copy courtesy of The Folio Society, 2013