Category Archives: Uncategorized

Musings on writing

Last week I was compelled to resurrect my Kindle in order to read Bluets by Maggie Nelson. I was so intrigued by her after reading a Tin House blog entry. She is incredibly lyrical and startling. I’m glad I read it and I’m glad it’s over…. A tad bit too sad for this season. However, I’ll definitely be mulling it over for some time.

I thought I’d share some quotes from Bluets that stirred me as a writer and journaler….

“Writing is, in fact, an astonishing equalizer. I could have written half of these propositions drunk or high, for instance, and half sober; I could have written half in agonized tears, and half in a state of clinical detachment. But now that they have been shuffled around countless times– now that they have been made to appear, at long last, running forward as one river– how could either of us tell the difference? Perhaps this is why writing all day, even when the work feels arduous, never feels to me like ‘a hard day’s work.’ Often it feels more like balancing two sides of an equation– occasionally quite satisfying, but essentially a hard and passing rain” (Nelson, 2009).

“I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one’s memory– that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve” (Nelson, 2009).

I have considered this same idea many times. On several occasions I’ve felt that my memory of an event or moment or period of my life has been replaced by reading about it later. This feeling is unpleasant, and best soothed by remembering that I wrote for the processing, the mulling over, the physical compulsion to put words to paper. I think of what I read in Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird, when I say that the act of writing itself is the pleasure and purpose.

Lammott encourages writers who are overly concerned with being published in this way: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

Yet sometimes I do write in order to remember: conversations, an incredible series of events, what he said to me when, the worst day EVER (all of them!), the best day ever, what I cooked when, what I did on trips… For the sake of honesty, I have to confess the sensation of flatness that I often feel reading about these things later on.

I’d like to consider this in a couple different ways.

We have to be good to ourselves as writers. I am excellent at tearing myself apart. Probably most of us are. But we have to fight against it, or we will be robbed of freedom and joy in expressing ourselves. In the sound words of Lamott: “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” The more we engage with writing, the more we participate– the more depth and direction we gain in our work.

Perhaps another answer is in the first quote from Nelson. I love how she talks about the editing process as streamlining incongruous thoughts so that “they are made to appear, at long last, running forward as one river.” In our journaling, we are presenting the raw material of our lives. We are unedited and unstreamlined. We can’t be discouraged when our journals don’t read like a best-seller, because they are of a completely different genre. I hope we see the beauty in that.

Advertisements

Journals and ideas: Part 2

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

Back to the idea I had.

I usually rifle through my stack of loud journals around the first of each year. I often find them obnoxious and over-the-top dramatic, but when I succeed in silencing The Critic, I see my desire for honesty, growth, and truth. I see themes among the pages, based on events and people that I would have forgotten otherwise. I see the maturity I’ve gained, but conversely, I see myself continuing to wrestle with the same issues. I suffer the cliche journal writer’s fear of wondering whose eyes will see what I’ve committed to paper. Will old age or death surrender my journals to mockers and intellectual superiors?

Well, there I go being over-dramatic again. Most likely my future children and husband will be the only ones who read my journals. And because they love me they will add my sorrows to theirs, my successes to theirs; my eccentricities will be reckoned with their already nuanced and dear perception of me.

But what if I shared pieces from my journals right now? Excerpts that amuse, inspire or illuminate, not because the writer was brilliant or remarkable, but because she did it with all the sincerity of her being. She did it because since kindergarten writing was the only way of getting to all the pieces of herself. The only way to filter the world with honesty. A way to stay fully alive. A way to find God when my vision is dark.

I want you to know that I accept all your reasons for and experiences with writing, too. I’d love for you to share them. I think we will laugh a lot together about the things we’ve written. I created a Tumblr blog for readers of Spacious Pages to add their journal excerpts and musings. You can check it out at journalshare.tumblr.com. I really hope you do!

Journals and ideas: Part 1

I had an idea last week. It began with a very bad day. I was feeling rather pointless, and looking for comfort, I pulled all my folded clothes off their shelf in the closet and into a heap on the floor. Reaching through the now-empty space, I retrieved a journal from a haphazard pile of notebooks lining the wall. (Hey, when you live in a teeny studio, you learn to double-up on shelves!) The journal I happened to fish out was from 5th/6th grade. What I read cheered me immensely.

Like this entry, for example.

Image

I found this entry particularly hilarious because of the juxtaposition of the pressures of 6th grade with the current problems in my life. My husband and I have been married for two and a half months, but we haven’t been able to enjoy it the way we had dreamed we would. Twenty-five days after our wedding, Anthony was hit by an SUV while he was commuting home from work on his bicycle. We are truly SO thankful to God that his injuries weren’t more serious, but still his right knee suffered three torn ligaments. He has spent the better part of the last month and a half in bed and in a terrible amount of pain and discomfort. And he is far from healed. Although this time hasn’t been without it’s blessings, it has been really challenging for our new marriage.

Hence the pile of clothes on our floor. And a cup of tea while delving into problems of the past that I successfully survived. Reading that journal, I was amused, embarrassed, challenged, thoughtful, nostalgic…. And I found myself not wanting to let that honest and innocent little girl down. She seemed to have all the same emotions that I have now, but she didn’t feel like her life was over, like the problems would overtake her. She still proclaimed her goals and dreams, never doubting they would happen. I felt a good degree of shame at the thought of her hearing my thoughts earlier that day.

I think there is great value at looking back on the written records of our lives, in all its raw and unglamorous detail. We see where we’ve been and gain insight to the present. Sometimes we even find a little comfort and reason to laugh.