Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thinky time

Lately I've been thinking a lot about writing. About why I do it and how I do it. What I do with it. I have stuff saved in boxes and files, in loose piles of papers, on various digital repositories. Any organization that could be detected is haphazard at best. I have my journals on a shelf by my desk. Sometimes I look at them. Sometimes I think I should probably just burn them. There was a period of time in the last ten years where I used those blank books to exorcise my demons. Sometimes it's pretty scary going back in and looking at the off-kilter excavations of my soul that fill those pages. But every time I think about doing that - maybe concocting some ritual to see those tortured words off into the ethereal nothingness - I pause. And do nothing.

It's not that I think there is anything great there, in fact, most of it is pretty horrible. And it's not like I want anyone reading it - though I did insist my husband read some of it back then - only because I couldn't speak what was written on those pages, and he needed to know what was going on with me. Can you say "nervous breakdown?" But I cringe to think of my kids reading them, or friends, or family. Or strangers.

So, why do I keep them? Why do I keep anything?

Have you ever seen one of those Tibetan sand mandalas? They are exquisitely beautiful, painstakingly created, and then destroyed. Ephemeral. Are they more lovely because they're fleeting? Ah, but we can take a picture and still be able to see it, right? What about words?

As I mentioned a week or so ago, the subject of what do do with one's writings is something that I ponder, especially now that I'm writing things that I'm not necessarily comfortable sharing with everyone. And that's probably the case for many writers. What might happen to our words when we are no longer around to care for them?

Are the words we leave behind of any value to anyone besides ourselves? What if what we have written is not looked kindly upon, maybe even in fear, by those that gain possession? Words, ones that may have great meaning for someone, could be lost. I am forever thankful to friends who weren't as diligent about cleaning up their email and were able to send me some of a late friend's poems. Some of those words had spoken so deeply to me, that I was bereft at having lost them (I had just the week before gone on a "housekeeping" binge and said to myself "why do I need these emails?" - little did I know). Oh, I wish this friend was still around, still writing. But I am glad to have some of his words still.

I could go on and on - my brain gets into a spiral and there seems to be no way out of this line of thinking. And yeah, I didn't answer any of my own questions.

Here are a couple of things I found that were interesting:

So, what are your thoughts on the preservation of words? Do you think about this as much as I do?

*note: that picture was taken on this past Sunday while I did some writing up in Maine.


Kam said...

Very thoughtful question - at least thought inducing for me. What will be these words fate?

Scarlett Greyson said...

I think...save them.

Your words are more than just words. They are snapshots of emotions, thoughts, processes, moments. Knowledge is knowledge and always worth sharing.

I know just what you mean...why keep them if you won't share them. Well...some time down the line perhaps you will.

Maybe you'll meet someone who needs to know that yes, someone else CAN and HAS felt the way they are at that exact moment.

Or...maybe you'll create another penname and cast what you're writing into the ether, free of the tether that leads back to you. That's what I did.

Sometimes...just know that the words are *there*, that someone could read them, is enough.

Scarlett Greyson said...


re: revisionist journaling...

that is not the way to go, though I know where the instinct comes from. I'm keeping a journal for the first time in years(I have easily half a dozen blank journals in my craft room with anywhere from 2-10 entries). I'm prone to rereading, only I don't revise...I just stop.

I hit a point where I look at those words and think...Did *I* write that? What the hell?

I hit that point with my current journal Monday...teetered on the edge of deleting the whole thing, and made myself stop.

Finally I'm finding what's beyond that tipping point.

Erobintica said...

Kam - fate, ah yes, what will be their fate?

Scarlett - Yeah. I know that I have read and reacted to words in ways the author of those words will never know. Knowledge is knowledge and always worth sharing. Well put.

And you know where my thinking goes on this - having read a chapter or two of my novel-in-progress. And maybe it's a conceit, but I can envision a reason to share stuff down the road, for many reasons, even the unflattering. Especially the unflattering.

What is it that drives us to put down our thoughts on paper? So many many people have no desire to in the least. Why?

Gina Marie said...

I still have my "Dear Diary" from when I was 7. I save bits and pieces of everything, albeit haphazardly. I don't journal as much as I used to. The words come out more fully formed nowadays on my laptop. But the evolution of me is there in my words and I enjoy going back sometimes....to realize how far I've come and know that dry spells never really last very long.

Erobintica said...

Gina, Oh god, lol, I had one of those - I'm not sure if I still have it - I don't have a clue - but I do remember coming across it years ago and freaking out - so I may have tossed it.

Jo said...

God, I@m too disorganised. But it's hard to throw things out. I say wait til it feels right to. Review yearly. Don't keep stuff that makes you feel bad, but don't purge if you still feel a connection to it.

My laptop just died. Sigh. Trying not to think about what I might lose.