No flu this January, but a late start, on the thirteenth, with some reflection on aging and plans. “Can we count on another 20 years? I shall be fifty… and sometimes feel that I have lived 250 years already, and sometimes that I am still the youngest person in the omnibus. (Nessa said that she still always thinks this, as she sits down.)”
Difficulty of writing becomes more intense for her, “Things I dashed off I now compress and re-state.” This may be in part to the death of her dear friend Strachey, Lytton, and her renewed sense of futility due to grief. “I wake in the night with the sense of being in an empty hall: Lytton dead and those factories building. What is the point of it–life–when I am not working– suddenly becomes thin, indifferent. Lytton is dead, and nothing definite to mark it. Also they write flimsy articles about him.”
Still, in February she is writing criticism, and full of ideas. The next entries are in May, and show her thinking how to respond to critics of her own work, followed by a serious emotional disintegration: “I’m screwed up into a ball; can’t get into step; can’t make things dance; feel awfully detached; see youth; feel old; no, that’s not quite it: wonder how a year or so perhaps is to be endured. Think, yet people do live; can’t imagine what goes on behind faces. All is surface hard; myself only an organ that takes blows, one after another, ; the horror of the hard raddled faces in the flower show yesterday; the inane pointlessness of all this existence: hatred of my own brainlessness and indecision….” she goes on like this, and for this indexer, it mostly goes under illness, mental with some scraps under the other people in her life, and reading: inability to read which is always one of her dangerous symptoms.
But, never mind. I can’t make this work. There is a reason I stalled out ten years before her death, and it’s not just apprehension of rereading my way toward that note left on the mantelpiece.
In indexing, the last stretch of pulling entries often goes very fast, and requires less analysis, because the themes are clearly established and the book itself is racing to the end.
And I am ultimately dissatisfied with this project. I have not been able to find what I was looking for: a way to dramatize the writing process of indexing as something more than data entry. The work that I believe does this best is by a better indexer and much better teacher than I will ever be: Facing the Text by Do Mi Stauber.
What I was after originally, was an index that would turn A Writer’s Diary into a more useful book for writers who want to know, as I did when I picked it up again and turned to the absolutely crap index, what practical insights and companionship it has to offer. What she has to say about planning, and structure, and first drafts, and revision, and criticism, and reading lists, and all she got done in limited hours with unpredictable health.
So I am breaking this log jam by saying: enough. I will finish this index at a normal speed, and post it for anyone else who may ever want it.