06 November 2008

Ghosts on the road

Alright, now we return to our regularly scheduled domestic programming.

I was fussing today about blogging; I've hit a dry spell, and nothing much seems worth talking about. Physically, I am busy, but it has to do with gardening and cooking and cleaning and lots of catch up. Not things that inherently have much discussion value unless there is an analogy or metaphor to be drawn from them, or I can relate a funny story about falling off a six-foot ladder because I'd only gotten three hours of sleep (except this time, it wasn't funny and no, I didn't get hurt). Nearly going over the 12-foot fence during the last Santa Ana while I was trimming the enormous lavender starflower that grew about 30 ft. when I was in Europe...now that would have been funny.

Which brought me back to...why exactly do I do this?

To force myself to write in a particular way, publicly. Knowing that there is the potential for perfect strangers to read what I've written. To have the opportunity to play with words and try out different ways of communicating various ideas. To tell stories, true ones, but stories nonetheless. Storytelling is a form of magic, a form of discovery.

I started keeping a journal when I was 10. I was desperately worried that I might forget major events of my life (10-year-olds have so many of those, of course, although, astonishingly, I frequently wrote about world events), and so wanted to keep a record. After about the age of 14, I never could actually bring myself to go back and read what I'd written. I was extremely unforgiving of my young, idealistic, and mildly hysterical, very 10-year-old self. And so it went with each subsequent year; I would write, but would never return to read what I'd written. These pages and notebooks have been sitting in a bankers box for years, my black dog, a somewhat menacing and unfortunate reminder of a frequently not very happy existence. I can only hope that I have sufficient warning so I can dispense with the whole mess before I wander off into eternity.

(It amuses me no end when I start NaNoWriMo every year that I had written 5 very long novels prior to turning 18. Mercifully, I had the good sense to burn them all before I left for college. I also wrote a novella in partial fulfillment of my Advanced Baccalaureate degree. Unmercifully, the college library has a copy.)

I still keep a journal, and I always keep a notebook with me. I love my notebooks, the little ones that fit in the palm of one's hand. I love the physical act of writing, the tactile sensation, the flow of ink on cool paper. Although all my serious writing has been done on computers for untold years, I still take notes. My notebooks go on planes, are updated in taxis and hotel rooms. Memorably, in Chicago, after telling D. I would never EVER sleep that night, I sat down to make notes, wrote four words and woke up still fully dressed, maquillage intact, about five hours later with the notebook clutched in my hand. So much for not sleeping.

I had a lot of time for writing and thinking while on all those planes this spring and summer, and the result was a germ of an idea that is actually turning into a novel, more handily than I would have expected. But the price has been going back into those old journals, mostly for authenticity, for voice. Talk about cringing. Talk about humiliating.

At least at the outset. Once I retuned my internal ears to the voice of that other me, I found some fairly interesting things. For one, I wrote a very observant and highly journalistic account of the Eagles concert I saw, my first concert ever. But there were other incidents, too, more disturbing memories I'd clearly sanitized with time to protect myself, and they came full circle to the sense of unease that has been dogging me since last year.

When I read books, I like to look beneath the surface, to see the threads that make up the warp and weft of the story. I like the structure, the framework. At the moment, I am engrossed in the warp and weft of my own life. As I laid one ghost to rest in San Juan in April, another appeared the same day and that old, old voice resonated fiercely, even as the words came out of someone else's mouth, someone I'd never seen before in my life. And for the first time, I am beginning to understand why it is that I trust neither my own instincts nor the goodwill of others.

Go listen to some good music: "Ghosts on the Road" from the album Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man by Guadalcanal Diary.

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