A mind at play: I don’t have to know why I wrote what I wrote or even why I’m publishing it—I can just know that I want to

Let’s see what there is to say about the earlier point—what are the implications of the idea that each day’s journal will resemble the other days’ journals, that they don’t vary a lot in format? Well, a loose, open [format], but still—OK, well, yes, and? I mean, there might not be that much variation—say, as there could be in a poem-try book, say, variety among poems (though Kay Ryan’s poems have a consistent form and other aspects). So, these journals will also likely be calm, in the sense that not much is happening—or, that they’re usually written when I’m in a calm, quiet place and mood—the morning of the new day.

And OK, what else? Suddenly this idea doesn’t seem as powerful as it seemed when I wrote it yesterday—I am kinda pulling it out as a topical notion. I’ve said before that one thing about journal-writing is that what’s more-or-less consistent is my voice. So does each day capture/represent the whole? What’s the value in publishing several journal entries?

I mean, I could take out, select out for publishing, what seems new each day—that hasn’t seemed to work, as it missed the point of the consistency and everydayness. In journals, I don’t need there to be big happenings in order to write them—that’s not the point. I did little yesterday and I’ve gotten, what, 16 pages so far. The journals are daily, are done every day, so in details, they may repeat. I live in same house for years, don’t travel much, walk the dog every day, journal every day—and yet, I didn’t and don’t want to write about the novelty of each day (novel things of each day). I do some of that, sure, but I also write about things I notice—say, like noticing multi-color coneflowers/Echinacea this morning—no big deal to see them but I hadn’t seem them before. But you write about the overall flavor of your life. You sketch a sense of consistency, not novelty—that may be key here. News reports are sketches of/are describing novelty, even if, say, what’s novelty is an exceptionally long duration of sameness (drought, say, or a long time between recessions). It’s boring, mostly, to point out sameness in a topical story. But in a writing of consistency, part of which is pointing out that much of living is routine, we shouldn’t overlook the routine.

And I don’t mean to say that routines matter more than novelty—but that we notice novelty from within a routine? (How else would you notice novelty? If every day is remarkably new, you’re probably in crisis—a refugee, a soldier in war, an inpatient, something). At same time, I don’t want to say noticing small things matters more than describing or noticing big things. I don’t want to make either a priority. I’ve said recently that I want to make looking a priority—as a process (rather than emphasizing product). OK, but that’s not the only answer. I like the intimacy of Thoreau’s journals, and of Pepys’s. Partly what’s great about Pepys’s journals is seeing how the routines (the regular ways of living) then are different from (and similar to) now. Thoreau’s closer in time—I’ve said before I feel closer to Thoreau’s mind when reading his journals as compared to reading Walden (and neither is especially compelling, though Walden makes more claims and thus has more rhetorical force, perhaps).

OK, I’ve been over this territory before. How does this aspect of sameness, routine, consistency of journals, how does this contribute to/affect publication?

The everydayness of Pepys’s and my journals is cool—to be able to look up every date (and not just occasional dates). There’s more of a sense of honesty (along with the intimacy) in writing everyday—in that I’m not holding out and writing only when I think I have something good to say, or some beef/complaint to write, as I did before age 30. Those early-years journals might be more topical and they may convey a somewhat skewed view of my living since they deal only with bigger (or so it seemed to me at the time of writing) issues, concerns, etc.

So, in daily writings, you give up flash and persona, at least somewhat, but you gain honesty of presentation. You’re in your all-together: yep, this is me, this is all I do.

(This week I read Steve Albini’s (he’s the record producer in Chicago) food diary—how he makes a lot of his own food—but also goes to poker games in Indiana, weirdly. Why spend one’s life doing that? Well, he likes it, I guess.)

And I may not want to brag on the honesty of my journal-writings (but the each-day details of Albini’s journal were kinda interesting). I may not want to market the honesty—that feels a false move, like how I’ll always be choosing what to reveal, what to publish, and what not to—or, let’s say, as long as I get to choose what parts to publish, I won’t be revealing it all—the …, the criticisms of …, etc. I mean, I don’t want to lose my sense of social-acceptability, sense of propriety—the sense that I know what to reveal and what to keep private while I live.

OK, but let’s shift the freewrite here—so, knowing I can’t reveal all, and also knowing (well, sensing) that there’s little readership interest in reading all my rawest words—I’m not famous or weird enough for there to be prurient public interest. So, not that I want to overly edit down journals, either—somehow maybe—shoot, not sure where that idea was headed.

So, the model I hold in mind is those Brautigan stories like “Kool-Aid Wino” that are minor but are detailed and which convey a certain sense of setting (time and place) and attitude/mood. But I’m not saying his writings are entirely my model, either. So it’s fair to ask, though, what is it you think is worth publishing, is cool enough that others should see it, about your journal—maybe my sense of calm, my backing off of certainties—my life as a kind of model for others? Eh—but part of why I journal is just so I can let go of my smaller, petty ideas. Maybe I’d like to convey a sense of open-mindedness? Maybe. Maybe I don’t really know what’s cool about my writings—I’m taking it from D__ that my email-writings convey a sense of calm.

But there’s another aspect of journals—that of a mind at play, really. Journal writings, since they’re not focused (like audience-aimed, audience-intended texts are) on accomplishing a certain purpose, covering a topic, whatever, journals writings are freer to, well, go in whatever directions they’d like. They’re like a puppy at play, one thing after the other—Sammy’s 2008 fall list, the list I made of all the things he did in a short period of time. He was so absorbed in the play that he wasn’t much self-conscious—and maybe there’s a parallel here to journal writings. And now I’m reminded of how the puppy isn’t self-aware or self-conscious of being cute—as I’m sometimes trying to be cute and get M’s attention (lately, being cute with blankets at bedtime) but I only started trying to portray cuteness after I’d done some stuff un-self-consciously, naturally, as it were, and M thought and called it cute.

(I hear a tinny song that may be the iced cream dude. I also just realized that I haven’t been tight-chested since getting up from nap. …)

And so I don’t really know if I can be un-self-aware and then also publish those (though sometimes readers might want to have the feeling that one’s writings are self-edited, that they don’t reveal too much. We might feel a little embarrassed for a writer who says a little too much (I’m thinking of that writer who said she consented to … —yeesh.)) So maybe there’s a fundamental distinction here of play vs. work; unpurposed, unedited writings then needing to be edited for a purpose—

and I’m feeling an urge to get up and do something else, but let’s say this (I’m also aware that more, better ideas might and likely will come to me later, when I’m writing or even when I’m not expecting them): that I don’t really know what my purpose in editing and publishing is. I don’t really know why I’d publish these loose-form journals, either (except partly as an urge to build my ego, get some attention, some praise, even if it’s not much more extensive than former students wanting to show it to others, as J__ Facebook-messaged me recently—sure, I can admit to that).

But that I do have seem cool ideas that have come up in the journal writings over time—I could collect those into one volume, but I don’t feel like that conveys the writing life, the way (method, even if loose method) those idea ideas came to me. Maybe I really do want to share my process—I don’t need to hide my work (as that one Taylor Mali poem says of hiding work in English class, hiding drafts). I don’t want to look like some sage lecturer, with all the bullsh!t persona-building that label and that rhetorical positioning requires. I wanna look like a suppliant, a vessel receiving info—well, maybe not suppliant, but a humble person who knows not where ideas come from but allows himself to be humble, open-minded, letting go of certain knowledge (knowledge—certainties) in hopes that new ideas will come. I don’t want to present the tidy story (of the topic-edited tome) and I don’t really want to merely express a mood or attitude through my writings, as Brautigan’s seemed to). Perhaps my editing guideline is: well, I don’t really know why I’m sharing, but I feel compelled to—and so I do it. I don’t need to know what they all mean.

And as I wrote the lines above, I sensed I was editing for topics—”how did those great ideas come to me”—but, no, I don’t think I need to go a-lookin’ for only the great ideas. I think I can assume, for the better method (for the betterment of my method, or as the better method), a not-knowing. I think I may want to, at least on blog (and maybe edit down to a select few later), just throw up journal entries, even if loosely edited and picked at random. Surely it’s a valid point, that routines and repetitions will be seen across many days—and each day‘s journals are new and original, each was a lived experience, and I don’t have to know why I wrote what I wrote or even why I’m publishing it—I can just know that I want to. I’m reminded of talking to P__ about his novel and being surprised and maybe a little disappointed that P__ was so sure he knew what the end-scene of his book [meant]. I thought, you, the author, don’t know how I as a reader will interpret that (I had grown up in the AIDS era and he hadn’t, for one point).

And, at risk of ending this with a conclusion, I think I can safely post things and not worry who likes them—see what happens.

One thing—should I give a topical sort of title and downplay the date of journal? Just because the date is merely a code for organizing it—the experience I had of writing, and the text that resulted, don’t depend on calendar day. It could be that seeing the calendar day is like the distancing feel I get from seeing pics of old fashions and technology—but when I read old docs, I feel closer to those old times, that we have plenty in common.

5:57: After writing around the page and ending here [arrow to the sentence above], I peed and came back to kitchen and opened the Bunny Tracks iced cream I’d got out of freezer and had set on stove a few minutes back. I’m surprised I wrote for over an hour, but I liked the experience—I’ve experienced writing during another hour of my life!

[From journal of Sat., 7 July 2018, post-nap from 2-4:something p.m., Journal 280, page 18-26]

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