Friday, December 30, 2011

A Found Journal & A Note to Writer-Parents of Young Children

What we really did this winter break? We cleaned out our house. Some of you who know me are laughing -- hard -- right now. I've always said that cleaning is a form of oppression. In fact, there's a poem in Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees called "Poetry Despises Your Attempts at Domesticity" that gets to the heart of the matter. I can't as of yet explain WHY I've broken down and set the household into a frenzy ... but ... in that frenzy Dave unearthed (in addition to aforementioned Baby Jesus in a Triscuit box) my old journal from grad school and a Creative Process journal that was assigned in my screenwriting course.

The 9/5/92 entry reads: How does the process work? You collect things... I had no idea that it started for me that early. It's exactly the way I'd start my answer to the question today.

The journal starts with letters to Dave, weirdly. I was on a trip with a childhood friend. It starts on 12/30/92 and the first line is It's such a luxury to be only me, known not presented. (We'd spent the holidays introducing each other to family and friends.)

The journal collapses over time. Eventually there are no more dates only quick jottings, lists of characters' names (Ogden, Cappage ...), bits of those things I'd collected to make stories from, notes in the margins where I say what I'm doing wrong ("Nothing works because setting is only a casement...").

There's a gap of over a year, it seems. It's '95. I'm married and have a baby.

The last written paragraph in the journal appears only half-way through the book. It sits alone at the top of a page. It reads, "I'm writing 2 stories at the same time. They're both ended but incomplete -- the baby just woke up + I'm thinking no not possible -- no. C'MON!"

The baby woke up and there were more babies and more wakings. But I kept writing, two stories at a time, leaving pages empty to take care of kids -- abandoning journals, abandoning this small extra step of clarity, learning to do it in my head and on scraps of paper, finding some small measure of time to write and write and write ...

(Note: New Parents -- there are times when you're doing this labor, this work -- the baby's head sweaty as he falls asleep on your chest, the cutting of fruit into small pieces -- where your mind can untether and drift and words are there and images and characters, story. Find scraps. Take notes. Still -- somehow -- try to hunt and capture time to write. Remember, too, that on the other side of young children, you'll still have to work to find time. The world doesn't just hand it over to you. Time. I won't say what everyone says to you -- cashiers and deli clerks and bankers -- those parents of older children you run into, day in and day out -- It goes so fast. I won't because you already know and the truth is it goes fast at an incrementally slow pace. If nothing else, practice living doubly -- being in your life, the thick of it, and observing it in fine detail. Note it. Jot. Untether sometimes and let stories come to you. The thing is, the more you engage in this raising of children -- really live it with all of your senses and love and fears -- the more prime you are to dig deep, as a writer. So let yourself go deep as a parent. It goes so fast. Let these babies mine your souls. It goes so fast. Your work will be the richer for it.)