Tag Archives: 2018

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]

I could go back and look at my life as a set of crisis points and choices

I do kinda like the idea that I could go back and look at my life as a set of crisis points and choices—that I really could tell my life story through that model, when I’d never really wanted to tell my life story before. I’m not really sure I want to do that now, either, but it feels like a possibility now.  A life story as a set of realizations that something needs to change—(and what observations and expectations were wrapped up in these realizations) and then choices made to reflect those realizations. Now, one nice thing about doing the journal writing I do is that I have a lot of these realizations and re-conceptions (of my ideas about what the world or what my life could be and should be).

I question my expectations and my perceptions and the judgments/interpretations I make about whether those interpretations are good or not—or should be changed.

I watched a little bit of Tennessee vs. Georgia footedball game yesterday, mostly with the TV’s sound off—and, yeah. Yeah.

I come to these journals as I am today, even including whether I’m tired or hungry or whatever mood (I’m tempted to go back and erase pencil marks from previous odd-numbered pages once I’ve pressed them into the even-numbered pencil pages)—and anyway, sit and write 10 more minutes, then you can go, you know? Give it a few solid minutes there—it’s 9:45 now, says flip phone.  I’ll go check on charging smart phone. It could be that I’m too tired to really get into this today—that I have been writing for nearly an hour now (9:48 on flip phone) but maybe I was in a scattered-mind mood. That’s OK, too.

One idea from last night’s bedtime—that I could keep pulling a line or idea out of each journal as I post it, or that I could just say something like, “Here’s what I thought on this day: (Date).”

I do like how this journal looks and feels once it’s filled in. I like that I’ve written so much. I probably could use to nap, after making breakfast now—oh, and pooping.

I feel like there are big ideas I could be having—but they don’t seem to come. And I know that it’s easy for me to get abstract, unnecessarily or unusefully so, when I’m tired-mind.

[From journal of Sun., 30 Sept. 2018, Journal 284, page 227-9]

Journalism writing is about the world, usually, but seldom seems to intersect the world


— Inhaled many times.

— Ate lunch. Read online.

— Went to Book Sale at Library Media Center. I got some books for readin’ and some for tearin’ apart and rebindin’—like the one that’s “Police Brutality: Opposing Viewpoints”—OK, then. Also, “Pornography: Opposing Viewpoints,” with a lady’s legs on cover. Black & White PORN might be just as effective, in a more taboo way, eh? Saw two “Playdude” references in the Season 13 Simpsons episodes last night. One was where Buck (Cowboy) got rid of “Playdude” and Homer grabbed it from garbage.

— I was reading at lunch about opioid addiction in U.S. and how U.S. uses so much more opioids than other countries—50 thousand (prescriptions?) per million people, almost twice Canada (30k) and Germany (25k). And I thought how generic it seemed, that article—how journalism writing is about the world, usually, but seldom seems to intersect the world.

— Had a thought as I lay down 3rd hour about how maybe I don’t need to push my students—that’s not quite right.


[Two teacher-colleagues] in hallway after this hour started talking about some administrator while both looked at LMC study hall calendar on wall.


— Kyle not in his chair—well, the chair has no person, not even a Kyle E.


What it’s like to be alive is—well, it’s kinda what I’ve been thinking about today, or these two are related. As I lay down on classroom floor (northwest corner, out of view of door window [during prep time, to relax my back muscles]) 3rd hour, I felt like I could let go of fretting about what I’m having students in English 2 do. …

[From school journal of 7-8th hour, Tues., 16 Jan. 2018, Journal 269, page 107-8]

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door just after I’d sat to poop. And I said, “YES?” in a way a little, but not quite, like the unctuous salesman says, “Yes? YAYSS!” on Simpsons.

I suspect the knocker was ___, who probably thinks my answer ridiculous, but I also think his knock ridiculous—it expects an answer. When I’m outside that bathroom wanting in, I just try my key without asking first. Maybe __ thinks that rude.

[From school journal of Fri., 26 Oktober 2018, first hour, Journal 289, page 133]

I could use a taboo word in a poem

Oh, I had an idea last hour that I could use a taboo word in a poem. Say, like, the “c” word. And it’s no big deal to say most swear words, and yet (and yet, it’s naughty-fun, 14-year-old-style, to say naughty body parts)—and yet, to write these words in a poem is to have a sense of their power, I guess. I mean, yeah, to write a word, to have a reverence for it—it’s usually hard to write while revering every word. But maybe some words, which brings me to the topic of the day, the first word, the very first word. How to get it to catch on, among other people (and how soon were the first accents and word changes?).

A student—L__?—asked why there are so many examples of certain words having many meanings—why not use more different words? Well, I assume part of the word-spread is metaphor. She mentioned the word “right”—how the word meaning “hand” came also to mean “correct” and “rights” (privileges).

Here I am in class. It’s an overcast day out. “Gymnopedie” by Satie—or someone’s interpretation of that song—plays, and I think how it might be nice to be outside right now—instantly, or after just a walk out of the classroom. Eh, then what would I do next? That walk-out doesn’t happen often, I ‘d suppose—oh, I got notice about pension record annual update.

What was the first word — “I”? “You”? “Water”? “Sun”? “Food”? A specific food?

[From school journal of Weds., 28 Nov. 2018, 9th hour, Journal 296, page 22-4]

Phoebe Doughty Vasey (born 1847 in Bloomington, Ill.)

I worried that we couldn’t find cat. What if that little f**ker had escaped? And we looked for him and found him behind the bottom-tier of shirts in my closet, left side. Dog has pulled most of the blankets off his bed. …

I got on computer in 4 p.m. hour and looked up Menominee, Wis., and I found a 1950 city directory, which I’d found on phone before but couldn’t read. The Vasey Insurance Agency—Paul Vasey & Winston Vasey—was at 616 Broadway, and Anchor Cafe—(my great-grandmother) Alice’s old restaurant—was at 620 Broadway, and those directions might be south Broadway now, judging by the Google maps view of Menominee today, and it looks like those buildings are torn down, replaced with a parking lot. And I found a Dunn Co., Wis., history, 1925, listing biographical info for Wes Vasey and Fannie Cockeram, my great-great grandparents, and their parents, Francis & Phoebe Doughty Vasey (she born 1847 in Bloomington, Ill.) and Osmond Cockeram and wife Ann Rick, immigrants from English in 1851. And yes, it’s the Doughtys, I guess, who got the D.A.R. connection (wanted by some in my family), but these other family connections to the old country can be quite valuable in finding those who could connect me to England, whose records I could read, unlike my Swedish & German ancestors.

And so, yeah—and yeah—planted in 7 p.m. hour, blogged about 8-9:30, did load of socks.

[From journal of Mon., 23 April 2018, Journal 275, page 103-4]

See also Phoebe Alice Doughty Vasey here.

I was gonna say something else about Western mindset

I was gonna say something else about Western mindset having expectations—not being happy with the present situation. Maybe Westerners’ love-marriages suffer from expectations (abstractions) that arranged marriages don’t have.

Watched a PBS thing about animal rebelsa boxer crab who carries anemones, who kidnaps them in his claws, and sloths have moths to poop in their fur and feed algae that grows in cracks in fur.

And yeah—it’s an overcast day. I hear bird song and some droning (churring?) like frogs. It’s distant. I hear it coming through window behind me.

[From journal of Thurs. 3 May 2018, Journal 275, page 155-6]

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our ideas of now

Our ideas will fall short of describing our full experience and surroundings. But maybe my main message to readers (to the future people?) is to remind them of our ideas’ limits.

What’s it like to be alive in 2018? I could talk about my concerns over national politics or local institutions, or my personal problems with health and money— but no doubt the 1874 people could’ve listed their own problems that would be equivalently concerning/important for them. I’m presuming here that they weren’t all that different from us—for all their particular technology and circumstances, they created us and shaped the world into which we were born. It’s frankly arrogant of us to think they don’t matter (though, I mean, if one’s starving, one needs food more than one needs a story). Yet to say they created conditions that later came about (technological and scholarly innovation of then shaped what came later) is also to generalize.

I said to Mom Thursday that I try not to complain—though then I complained about those who complain! Ha!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our ideas (M came in the room singing “This is America” song) of now—but it’s useful to know these contemporary ideas aren’t the whole realm of ideas, either—dethroning contemporary ideas.

[From journal of Sat., 9 June 2018, Journal 277, page 201-3]

It’s overcast but got darker yet

It’s overcast but got darker yet in the last few seconds. Supposedly this rain today is from remnant of clouds of (sub)tropical storm Alberto, which was in Florida Panhandle a few days ago. Rain may be picking up again. I checked my garden—the puddles seem to have gone away once rainpour slowed.

Cat and dog are both at the deck door, dog looking out, cat to his right, then out, then to his left, toward me. Damn, heavy rain, blowing against—crashing against—windows to my west.

I did get the garbage bins out to curb. I took apart that gray-seated chair whose shiny metal seat support-weld broke a few months ago and chair’s been in garage a while and I just today took it apart, put small stuff—seats, bars—into garbage but the legs and back uprights will go next week.

I just started more water for tea and looked out window at garden. The puddles along south (uphill) side/edge of garden are back.

[From journal of Weds., 30 May 2018, Journal 277, page 23-5]

Journals—written within time, recording lived time

Some times there are thoughts I don’t dare record. Nothing super creepy—actually, I mean, there are sometimes things, like, say, some criticisms of M, that I reword carefully/politely, or I don’t say them, mostly ‘cuz I’m also learning as I write. I mean, I don’t want to be an asshole, so sometimes I correct myself as I write—I challenge and question myself, which is one of the coolest things about doing these freewrites: the self-teaching, the self-correction.

So often, writing escapes time—it collapses time by summarizing, it takes an overview perspective—a perspective outside of time—like telling the story while knowing how it ends. But my journals don’t do that—they’re written within time, from that perspective where there’s lotsa details. I mean, there are so many things to write about when you’re not just summarizing the high points!

But also, I don’t know where things are headed—what things happening now, today, will later seem important and which won’t. But the beautiful thing is that I am—how to say?—recording lived time in my journals. That’s what all these nearly 300 journals are—a recording of consciousness—and consciousness experience (and consciousness experience even sorta makes, through memory, time).

[From journal of Tues. 3 July 2018, Journal 279, page 116-7]