Virginia Woolf, Synchronicity, and a New Direction in Writing

Leap of Faith by Lucy Campbell.

This is about synchronicity that happened after I posted the short story, “I Couldn’t Find My Voice,” so it’s important to read that first.


I went to bed feeling terrible about the ending of my post, “I Couldn’t Find My Voice.”

I thought, “How is anyone going to respond positively to the story when I end it by saying I feel like my writing is going to get flushed down the toilet?”

But that was how I felt when I left the Writers’ MeetUp last Tuesday. I was really happy with the writing I had done, but I thought, “I want to work on my memoir, but I can’t figure out how to start. I have so many important things to share but I’m hardly getting any responses on the work I’ve done so it feels like everything I’m doing is getting flushed as time moves on. I’m starting to wonder if it’s always going to be that way.”

But somewhere along the long drive home during the rush hour commute I decided I was going to share some of the writing I had done that day anyway.

When I got home, I started to look for a photo of jam with a spoon, hoping I could find a free one that would work. I went through my list of free photo websites not finding much and my last option was Wikimedia Commons.

Photo search historyWhen I saw the one titled, A jar of her own, I liked it even though it didn’t have a spoon, so I downloaded it and altered it slightly with some posterization.

As I keyed in the story, I decided I wanted to add a new category to my blog because there was at least one more story I wanted to share, maybe two, from the MeetUp session. I realized that the process we used was “stream of consciousness,” but it seemed kind of weird to even be setting up a new category because I hadn’t ever written anything that I thought was worth sharing from any of the other MeetUp sessions, so I didn’t know how long it would be before I would have anything else to post.

I should also mention something kind of unusual that happened at the MeetUp. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to write from prompts that day, but as things progressed I had a strong feeling that I needed to stay with that group anyway. 

The group has a long-writing session where people write for the entire 45 minutes on whatever they want, and short-writing sessions where people write from different prompts for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 5 minutes. The short-session group members generate the four- to six-word prompts, and one is selected for each session. Then, after each session, everyone reads their work.

Wikimedia Commons - A Jar of Her OwnWhen I arrived I was going to join the long-session group so I put my things on one of the small back tables, but a woman came in just after I got there, and pointing to the large table, said, “We gather together here first to talk, then you can join whichever group you want.” So I moved my stuff, and as we continued talking I said at one point, “I think I’m going to write with the long-session group. I don’t feel like I have the energy to do the short ones. I had an interview this morning and feel really edgy. I don’t want to worry about a focus today.” But when it was time to start I felt like I needed to stay where I was because it looked like there were only going to be two people in the short-session group if I left, but there ended up being four of us.

To my surprise my prompt was chosen first.

Stream of Consciousness - CategoryWhen I was done, I was glad it was chosen for a 5-minute session. I didn’t feel like I could have written much more about it and liked the fact that it had a strong ending that conveyed how I was really feeling even though it was negative.

But when I finished putting up a post about it on Facebook Tuesday night, I thought, “Here I am talking about how I am hoping I can make this new category useful to other writers,” and ending my first entry with, “Boohoo! My work is going to go into the toilet!” What am I doing?

But after arguing with myself about it for a while, I thought, “That’s how the story ended, and I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way, at least from time to time,” so I decided to leave it and go to bed.

When I woke up in the morning, I decided I needed more rest since I have a physically demanding job. Once in a while when I do this, I experience something that seems kind of like stream of consciousness, but it’s more like sparks of hyperconsciousness. Thoughts pop into my mind and sometimes some of them seem really important. I found myself thinking about the title of the photo, “A jar of her own,” and I realized it had the same number of words and same style as the title of Virginia Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own.

I got up and looked at Woolf’s Wikipedia page, and I was stunned at what I read in the first sentence.

Virginia Woolf was a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.

Virginia Woolf - pioneer of Stream of Consciousness concept

A Room of One’s Own is focused on issues of Woolf’s time, which included not having leisure time or a place to write, and while some people still have a hard time finding those, I realized that’s not all we need. We need to have a voice of our own–a voice that comes from the deepest parts of who we are, that expresses our unique experience.

Woolf used stream of consciousness to do just that, to explore thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which was very experimental at the time. I started to wonder if I could benefit from it as well by taking ideas I had for my memoir and writing prompts for myself. That maybe the “spoonful by spoonful” approach had some merit after what happened Tuesday.

“Wolf” trending on TwitterSince I was excited to see the connection between the steps I had taken and Woolf’s work, I logged in to Twitter to share it with one of the members of the MeetUp group that has a Twitter page focused on writing from prompts, and I noticed that another variation of the word, wolf, was trending.

I suddenly realized that I had been seeing lots of posts about wolves. My last Facebook post included a photo of a girl riding a wolf (see illustration above). The New Year’s super moon was a Wolf Moon and everyone was sharing posts about it, so I decided to wait to share what I found after I got this post done.

I had also mentioned The Killing Fields in “I Couldn’t Find My Voice”, but it had been years since I’d seen it.

As I walked out of the theater that night, I tried to talk to my friend, but nothing came out. I was and I wasn’t surprised because the story was so upsetting. It took me about five minutes to settle down. I never talked to anyone else about it. I guess I thought it was just one of those things that you accept was weird and move on. I had never experienced anything like it before and haven’t since. But I also don’t go to movies like that any more. I can read about a lot of difficult subjects, but I realized at that point that I can’t watch them.

Wolf moonAs I read the storyline again, I could see more to that connection than just my reaction. The story is about stifling and killing educated, professional, dissident voices. The main character, Pran, pretends to be an uneducated peasant. He had to stifle, contain, jam his true voice down to survive. This is still happening in many places today.

Of course I don’t have to worry about that level of oppression, but I am dealing with a certain level of fear. I don’t know if I should use certain kinds of words for fear that some people will reject my work because of it. And I know it’s a given that some people will react negatively to the content. So all of that has been affecting my feelings about how to move forward.

I also noticed another type of connection as I did the research on The Killing Fields.

Photographer located in SeattleI live in the Seattle area, and I was surprised to see that one of the three memorials to The Killing Fields, the only one outside of Cambodia, is in Seattle. Also, in the big, wide world of Wikimedia Commons, the photograph I chose was taken by someone in Seattle. To me, one connection wouldn’t have been worth mentioning, but since I saw two, even though it may not actually be synchronicity, it is interesting.

So I didn’t throw my story, “I Couldn’t Find My Voice,” into the toilet, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of work I’ve done over the years hasn’t gone there and I expect that a lot more will. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the ending really is fitting for the first post of this series.

I think a lot of writers feel this way from time to time. We look back at our old work and realize it’s crap and there’s nothing else to do but flush it. But I think about this all of the time, wondering if my work is ever going to be considered anything else. I don’t know what anyone thinks about the quality of my writing, and I think a lot of people are unsure about what to think of me, but I also understand that a lot of people lurk in the background when they are exploring ideas that don’t fit into societal norms.

I thought the synchronicity with stream of consciousness, the variations of “wolf” I found while I was working on this post, and the connections to my location were all pretty remarkable, but as I was working on the information about A Room of One’s Own, I decided to read some of it to make sure I wasn’t saying anything that was incorrect, and I found this:

…it is for you to decide…whether or not any of this is worth keeping. If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the wastepaper basket and forget all about it. [p.5]

Apparently I’m in good company.


If you would be willing to share how you found your voice or some of the things you’ve done to try to find it, I’d love to hear about it. And if you’ve had valuable experience with stream-of-consciousness writing, I’d love to hear about that, too!

2 Responses to Virginia Woolf, Synchronicity, and a New Direction in Writing

  1. Hi Ceejae,
    Finally circling back to this after your original post, Jan. 3.
    Yes, I think almost ALL writers experience that self-doubt. Validation feels good. No doubt about that.
    Writing, writing, writing can help us improve — so many instead of imagining it being flushed or in the wastebasket (!), perhaps the metaphor of the compost pile.

    I do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages exercise where you write three pages of longhand “brain drain” she calls it. Stream of consciousness writing. Sometimes there are gems I can use elsewhere, sometimes it’s just about priming the pump.

    Sounds like the meetups are helpful!

    I’m about to self-publish my memoir, which includes several synchronicities. I have NO idea how it will be received. I felt it was important to write — just for me, to contribute my voice to the mix.

    Austin Kleon (Show Your Work – highly recommend) says that you find your voice by using it, by talking about the things you love.
    Sounds like you’re doing that!

    • Let me know when your memoir is published! I would love to read it!

      One of the things I am dealing with is that there are all kinds of associated feelings that I want to express about my stories, but I have a hard time figuring out how to pull all of it together in a way that makes sense. I tried doing morning pages and didn’t get past about two or three months. I am not a morning person, so I thought, I can just do this when I have time, but I didn’t stick with it. It is hard for me to write without feeling like I have a purpose. Writing for the sake of writing doesn’t make sense to me. I think my talking voice and my writing voice come from two different places and I need to get them to be able to communicate with one other! So I hope the idea of using prompts and stream of consciousness will help me with all of that.

      I love the idea of the compost pile, and I appreciate the mention of Kleon. I will check out his book!

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