The Way I Write
My mind is always going about 1,000 miles a minute. That may sound exciting, and it can be, but mostly, it's exhausting. Ideas fire at all times like tiny explosions, every waking moment, often even while I'm sleeping, and out of desperation to collect and distill the raw energy, I am writing.
I write notes on scraps of paper shoved into purses and pockets and books, boxes and folders and envelopes and stashed throughout every space I inhabit. I try to collect them up into accordion folders with flaps that seal them in, or binder clips that seal them up loosely. I dream of going through them and organizing them, binding them securely into artists books that have themes. But until then these scraps wait like leaves in an alley, like Emily Dickinson's poems shying away from the eyes of others, or prayers shoved into the Wailing Wall.
When I absolutely don't have paper, I will email myself a sentence or two, with a cryptic subject line that all but ensures I will never find it again, unless I remember what I was ruminating on, in which case I wouldn't really need to find the email. On my old laptop, I would open up word documents and just write until I had exhausted an idea, nesting fractions of essays into folders with similarly indiscernible titles to my later email subject titles. Now, thankfully, I try to collect them all here, as drafts on this blog, and I will tell you that as of today I have two drafts for every post I've published. Even in the digital realm, I tend to stash my writing away.
I try to calm myself by remembering that I have never, ever run out of ideas. I shouldn't worry about how many are lost to the ether; there are always three more on the tail of a lost one. Jotting an idea down is like planting a seed, an essential first step to be sure, but the real task is the care of the plant into something viable, something that can be shared.
I loved the idea of a journal as long as I've loved the idea of a book. I've collected them, because I love them as objects. A journal is an elegant solution to my scribbles on scraps problem, a tree on which the leaves of my ideas can live, organize themselves, and be part of something larger, a conversation you can hold.
I also collect journals because I actually fill journals up. There is nothing so satisfying as filling a journal up, like coming to the end of a novel, bittersweet and necessary. A sense of wholeness, followed by the guilt free bliss of being able to embark on something new.
I remember feeling at age 10 very certain that it was of utmost importance that I made an entry every day, with the same urgency I feel now about creating. And for a few days, maybe even a whole month, I would journal daily. Then inevitably, I would miss a day, and that guilt would creep in, every bit as consuming as it is now. The cycle of guilt would keep me from writing for months, until finally I would write the necessary make up entry: an apology, and then an attempt to recap what occurred since the last entry. Why did it feel so important to capture everything? And why didn't I realize that getting through the recap exhausted my time or desire to write, so that often what I ended up recording was the stuff I didn't care about, and never got around to the entry that I wanted to write? Perhaps the same reason, even now, I let my guilt over not finishing something yesterday keep me from finishing something I want to do today.
I was aware from the beginning that the entries were not interesting. Somehow collecting the most mundane elements of my life felt urgent to me, that a record of my days was valuable precisely because it was ordinary, and because I was absolutely certain that I was not ordinary. That someday, something extraordinary would happen, and so it was important to establish just how ordinary the start of it was. This is my Act 1, I was telling my imaginary audience, maybe truly telling myself, this is the scene being set. And so I'd fill page after page with exposition.
And so the idea of blogging made immediate sense to me, because my writing demanded an audience. The physical journals were then set free from the burden of trying to communicate directly, and began morphing into sketchbooks, even before I knew the term. It just made sense that if you were going to bother with paper, it didn't need to be only words (or even only pictures)... however, if you wanted to write in the way you'd have a conversation, a blog made more sense than writing it in a book to hide away. I got my first blog in junior high, it had glittery gifs and dramatic music and lots of poetry. I'm fairly certain no one ever read it except for me.
It didn't trouble me as much as perhaps it should have that my blogs had no audience. The idea of the audience was enough. I was reaching out, but not too focused on actually grabbing anything. In my mind, people who didn't know me would read my posts, like the conversation I was having through books with authors I never actually spoke to, I felt I could connect with people anonymously and honestly, a message sent out in a bottle, not hoping to be saved, but just saying hi, I exist, and maybe you're not alone and so I am not alone either.
Now the idea of writing about the mundane is interesting to me because it is relatable. What is extraordinary about me is that I am a human, and I need to talk about it. I also like the challenge: make something everyone experiences interesting to read about. And an audience transforms the writing into so much more: a genuine conversation. It is painful, it is challenging, it is vulnerable, it is so much more interesting to talk to you than to talk to myself.