Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Thanks for being here.
I hope that this is a space that inspires you to add something beautiful to the world. I truly believe that 
you are required to make something beautiful.

– Shawna



To Contrive that Work is Pleasant

To Contrive that Work is Pleasant

“I am beginning to learn the mechanism of my own brain – how to get the greatest amount of pleasure and work out of it. The secret is I think always so to contrive that work is pleasant.”

– Virginia Woolf, diaries

Photograph of Virginia Woolf's writing table, Sussex, 1965 by Gisèle Freund

Photograph of Virginia Woolf's writing table, Sussex, 1965 by Gisèle Freund

I have to admit that whenever I see the above image turn up on Twitter, I find myself re-tweeting it. There’s something about the simplicity of it that appeals. the flowers, certainly. The small stone path through the grass, the potential expanse that the writer can look up and lose herself in. Is the page blank? Hard to tell from the photo. The journal though is open at the beginning, and there is always that feeling of hope and renewal at the beginning of a new diary.

“I want to be writing unobserved,” wrote Woolf in her diary entry of October 14, 1922.

The work will be difficult but it can also be pleasant. How good it is to write, unobserved.

outside writing table

On November 1st, 2 years later, she writes: “I must make some notes of work; for now I must buckle to. The question is how to get the two books done. I am going to skate rapidly over Mrs. D. but it will take time. No: I cannot say anything much to the point, for what I must do is to experiment next week; how much revision is needed, and how much time it takes. I am very set on getting my essays out before my novel.”

writing table shawna lemay

So amid all the rubbish weather we’ve been having, there was a morning where I took my novel, freshly printed draft, outdoors, with iced coffee. It was nice enough for about an hour before the wind came up, the rain, etc. I moved indoors, and made it through the first section, taking notes, thinking. It too, is rubbish, at this point. Though parts of it sing, parts of it sway. I can only make myself as comfortable as possible while I see this through.

Ideally, I can edit my novel during the morning, and work on my new essays in the afternoon. But of course there is the day job to fit in. Groceries. Life. I can’t say that my house is all that clean these days, or that the garden is weed free.

There is yet a lot to resolve in the first section alone. I need time. There will never be enough time. This is fine. It’s not fine. It’s what is.

It helps to know that Woolf was working on essays and a novel, Mrs. Dalloway, at that!, at the same time, not that I’m even remotely in her category.

Still. I’m pleased with the current working title of my novel: Everything Affects Everyone. Which I almost feel should be in all caps.

writing shawna lemay

From 1934, November 14th, Woolf’s diary:

“A note: despair at the badness of the book: can’t think how I ever could write such stuff – and with such excitement: that’s yesterday: today I think it good again. A note, by way of advising other Virginias with other books that this is the way of the thing: up down up down – and Lord knows the truth.”

backyard shawna lemay

So that’s my writing life, right now. The good, the bad, the juggling of time, commitments, necessities. Trying to contrive so that all of it is at least pleasant now and again. That there are moments in the garden, at the kitchen table, at my desk that I can call lovely. That I can still remember how to stare into space, alone, mulling over how everything affects everyone.

Portraits of Ordinary Women

Portraits of Ordinary Women

Keeping Care of the World

Keeping Care of the World