I don’t need to have a particular idea to write about in order to write just what comes to mind as I write. It’s OK, too, if ideas/topics do come to mind — and I’d like to keep these in a journal-context. I’m not sure how much I should say in my posts about how to read these posts of my journal writings — reading my journals just to spend a little time with me as I wrote, generally in a calm, reflective way. I’m thinking here how I read Sam Pepys’s journals sometimes during my lunch just to get out of the newsy/topical realm and get into the calm, life-goes-on, slice-of-life thing.
Sam Pepys didn’t publish his own journals. They would definitely be different, or at least there’d be a discrepancy between what he wrote and what he published, if he had published them while he lived. Why keep a journal, except for the experience of keeping a journal — which IS enough, of course. It can be kinda interesting to read the journal of someone known to you — family member, friend, etc., — like the family friend’s journal of his teen-aged road trip that I was shown a few years ago. Problem is that the main interest in such a document would be familial — because you knew the writer — rather than looking at the text itself, the text needing to justify itself — a task I face, since I have no descendants.
These journals are about the past, and the past is safe because it’s done, like how I drove myself into a new city, into Philadelphia, in 1996, at age 22, and it was scary then because I didn’t know that I would be safe, but now, no scares, because I did it and got home and it’s all done — closed off, secured in the past. It doesn’t have to be distant past – I’m feeling OK now about (my wife) M’s surgery because it went well — I know the outcome now, but I didn’t when I was writing on the 1st or early on 2nd of July. And of course, as I sit here and write today, as I write right now, I don’t know how things will go today, tomorrow, next year.
These journals are on a cusp of the future — I write now in safety about what happened yesterday, and I write now in concern for what may happen in near future, and that could be a kind of tension there. But I suspect that there’s never really much to do about the future, and when I’m writing, I’m usually pretty calm, not all that anxious about future nor grief-bound to the past. Even when I wrote about Papa’s death, it was the morning after, so I was over the immediate shock of it. It’s OK that I’m not writing at the immediate time after his death or writing immediately after whatever I did yesterday.
I read at Vox today an appreciation of L.A. Times food writer Gold, how he wrote about eating, not food, and how he wouldn’t take notes as he ate. He wanted to have the experience — 5 times at each restaurant — before he’d write, and then he’d try to share that experience with readers. That’s not really what I’m trying to do, share the experience from the past. The experience I’m wanting to share is the reflecting, the processing, the remembering, during the next morning — which will have a calmer tone than texts written moments after the heat of the experience.
These texts written at journaling time will have that calm, day-after, reflective aspect — and that’s kinda cool, because I don’t have to adopt some kind of persona. I am reflecting — there’s a transparency to my prose that way. I’m not writing years later to describe a scene thru haze of memory and nostalgia (like To Kill a Mockingbird, among so many other texts). My texts are without the artifice of persona, of trying to project a certain mood or tone or whatever — that’s the simplicity — but they’re also exactly what I want them to be: in time (not written years later but written each day, they’re time-capsules of what I thought on the day each was written) and also they are partial (I don’t try to write in that Voice of Authority that I can fall into, that voice I used as a reporter. When I sit and try to explain a topical (including historical) idea, I tend to adopt that distant, authoritative tone, and I think there’s a more natural tone — even enthusiasm — when I write text in my journaling voice). I like that my ideas are tentative, not final declarations, and I like that I show process, not just product. I like all these aspects of my journals, but I think today’s — what I’ve written above — might be the best way to explain what I’m wanting to do in publishing my journals.
From 24 July 2018 journal.