A few months back, I published a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books about Yuri Olesha's memoir in fragments, No Day without a Line. At the end, I suggested that I planned to try the same experiment: keeping a notebook--offline--in which I wrote every day. The purpose was not only to recover a purer experience of writing in the midst of constant distraction, although that was part of it. I wanted to write in a way that placed me in a larger context than just inside my own head. I wanted to record, for better or worse, "the times."
I'm sure you've all been on the edge of your seats, wondering: How's it been going? Did she do it? Has she written every day? What are those little handwritten gems really like? Answers: So-so. Yes. No. I was amazed how quickly I regressed to my previous journal-writing habits, which is why I gave up the practice in, oh, 1995. The thing became, far more than I had hoped, Compendium of Complaints. A Litany of Laments. A Chronicle of Cranky. It's not that I ever intend these pieces to be published in this form (unlike Olesha, who was ultimately writing for publication). It's the ease with which I tumble into the black hole of solipsism as soon as I believe no one is looking.
On one hand, I obviously need some space for blowing off steam, and perhaps writing it is better than dumping it on, say, one's husband night after night. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that "venting" is really all that helpful in and of itself. And the writing it produces is altogether useless.
What to do? The solution I've come up with is, no matter what I've written previously, before I close out the daily blurb, I ask myself: What did I see today? This is a variation on one of Olesha's fragments. And it forces me to think of something, even something very small, that I've observed. Often I find myself writing about it at some length. For example, yesterday I recalled seeing, during my daily walk around the neighborhood, a film crew setting up on someone's lawn. Why? I don't know. But then I began recalling details, like a man entertaining a child (his daughter?) by placing her in the driver's seat of his car. I presume he was trying to keep her out of the film crew's way. But who knows?
Anyway, I would have entirely forgotten about that if all I'd allow myself to do was grouse. Just a suggestion for those of you seeking a way to get words on a page.
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