Journaling 06.18.13

Ugh. I haven’t written in some time and now that I have begun, my computer restarts due to an update and cannot recover the file I started, which, of course, I hadn’t yet saved and utterly lost. Aaaahhhhh!

I will attempt to re-create my so far sad diatribe now. Perhaps this version will be better.

As I was saying…

I haven’t written in some time. It’s not because I don’t enjoy it; I do (except of course when I lose my work!). I have found writing, no matter how sporadic, to be a helpful release, especially for my heightened emotions that Alzy stirs up as he toys with my father and my mother. Add in the typical family relationships, joys, hardships, and teenage shenanigans—and my growing and persistent awareness that I am my own biggest critic and emotional contortionist—and surely I am at no loss for words. But (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there?) I have this nagging little voice that keeps telling me that my writing here is not good enough, that it’s not the way I want it to be, that I am capable of so much more. If only I had the time and solitude. And then I beat myself up for making excuses. If I were a Real Writer, I would write selfishly, no matter the obstacles, because I could not breathe and not write. And even if my content were subpar I wouldn’t care because at least I would get something down on this damn virtual paper that can disappear at any moment. (I better save this now, huh? There. Done.)  And all at once I am aware, too, of my self-imposed stress—a gift I do not need.  Relax. Give yourself some slack—but not too much, mind you, or you won’t accomplish anything. What is it you want to accomplish anyway?  I want to write something I am happy, no satisfied, with. And though these entries are helpful, my writing lacks something. I am not satisfied. So I am stuck.

And then in the very best way—in a way that made me sing Hallelujah!—I received confirmation that my little voice is right, or at least on to something.

I consulted my childhood friend Jack—my Jackie Paper, who once sailed with me through some magical realms. Our friendship weathered many difficult times as we grew out of childhood and through adulthood, sometimes journeying together, oftentimes apart, and somehow we remained linked. Puff died too many times to count but some part of his spirit resurrects each time we reconnect.  Perhaps that is just the natural effect of rekindling any childhood friendship. At any rate, I knew I could trust him to be brutally honest. And joyously, he was.

The grand idea is a good one, he told me. (Hooray!) And the spewing forth of day-to-day encounters is fine for a diary or as a means to record memories. But you need to develop place and character. (Yes!) Let the action tell the story without telling the audience how to feel. (Yes!) You’ve got dialogue down, but it’s not Great Writing. It’s not what you’re capable of. (Aha, I knew it!) Try taking yourself out of it; try writing in third person. (Excellent idea! Maybe it is my point of view that I’m unhappy with…) But keep journaling too if it’s all you have time for because it can help you keep track. Write every day.

He said so much more, each word of his critique a counterintuitive salve to the distress of my own negativity. He worried he was too harsh. No, I said, I need to hear it; it will make me better; it’s not about me or you or friendship; it’s about writing.

But really it was about friendship. Because of it, Jack, you can be as critical as necessary and I know it’s not mean. It might sting but only because reality often does; couched in 35 years of friendship, knowing you are on my side, your criticism is only kind and uplifting. Hmmm, would I embrace the same criticism from my family? I wonder.  Probably not. That just may be an advantage of distance, physical and emotional. Regardless, I was thrilled. If Jackie had been within reach, I would have hugged him tightly. I wanted to cry with happiness. I had a new direction and was armed with concrete, actionable ideas: write something every day; develop, develop, develop; use third-person; take the time to craft but journal when you can’t.

That was a month ago. Maybe longer.  Daily? Ha! A laughable concept. And here I am…journaling, No craftsmanship. Heavy sigh.

While not writing, I read two books. Not leisurely, mind you. Instead I devoured the pages as nonstop as life allowed. I took care of the essentials and everyone else but forgot to feed myself, feasting instead upon others’ imagined worlds. I traveled abroad with my new best friend, Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, in A Paris Wife, and then I was lost at sea with Piscine Patel in Life of Pi. I loved the escape. But it was fleeting: two books, six days. I still had to clean up the bit of mystery poo on bathroom floor this morning. And then disinfect the entire downstairs floor. But this time I did not go crazy washing everything Garland may have touched.  However, it did cross my mind to write a cleaning manifesto titled If You Give a Caretaker Crap along the same lines of If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Thanks Alzy.

As I read those two books, I was keenly aware that each was written in the first person. Interesting. And a bit confounding. I wish I could run away and think and write. Back to excuses, am I? Accept reality. So I find myself sitting on the toilet at midnight, scribbling notes I can barely read, hoping the light that escapes beneath the door is not enough to disturb my husband, whose alarm will ring obnoxiously at 6:30 am. So what? When I have some undisturbed time, I will journal. Use what I have. Breathe and be thankful for what I have.  And smile.

Something is better than nothing.

And I have a lot of beautiful somethings in my life.