My life in writing

stacksFriends ask why I write and my short answer is, “Because I have to.”

I’m on my 190th journal now.

My journals are white fields where my mind can gallop until I’m exhausted and ready to rest. I write as fast as I can to get all the thoughts out. As written words, they look more harmless that they seemed swirling in my head. I write as a way to find peace in the midst of so much mental activity.

My journals are whale baleen that take in mouthfuls of life and sift out phrases that grow into poems. I find one line I like out of many pages and write from there. I write to create.

My journals are a grand junkyard where I dump all my worries. Later I wander through. I find insight, treasure…and useless fragments. The journals are my own personal Antiques Roadshow. I write as a way to gain perspective.

My journals are one long prayer to God. I write as a spiritual discipline.

journals-close-upIf you keep a journal, I’m glad! Let me know about your experience in the comments. If you want to start a journal, go for it! Find the time that works for you. For me, I write in the evening before bed. My sister’s writing time is in the morning. What matters is that you make the habit. If you start a journal and then stop, that’s OK. Your journal entries will accumulate over your lifetime. Even if you only write once a year, you and your loved ones will be glad for a glimpse of you through time.

Next month, I’ll be part of Camp Nano, adding 10,000 more words to my memoir. If you’d like to sign up, there’s still time.  You’ll see my excerpts in July and then we’ll return to regular blog posts in August.

Here is a look back through my life, as seen through six of my journals. Enjoy!

Jan. 21, 1988, age 18

spineI’m really happy about my French lecture test grade. I think it’s good to push myself. I can do more and I know it. I like being here [at the University of Minnesota] and having a lot to do. It’s interesting stuff. It would be so boring to sit and rot at some desk job somewhere. I’ll really like being a teacher. I’ll always have papers and I’ll be able to think up things for my classes to do. I want to remember when I’m older to stay creative. I never want to just sit and watch TV. Hopefully my kids won’t either.

Sometimes I miss the Gen of younger days because we were simpler. Not that life has ever been simple or that we were happy then; we weren’t. High school was miserable. It’s just sometimes I wish I had 18-year-old problems instead of 22-year-old ones. Everyone has always thought me older than I am. I’ve always been so mature and responsible. I wish we could just have fun.

Our childhood is over and now we can only look back on it. It’s not so bad being an adult. I just miss the innocence and trust only the young can have. Now I know about stealing and seedy places and poverty and greed—all these evil things have touched my life and made me sadder and colder. I don’t want it to be that I’m 40 years old with nothing but empty bitterness.

March 13, 1993, age 23

womanA creamy brown and white pigeon just fell on me. Is this an omen? The metro [bus station] smells bad. I’m watching a pink girl play. Children! Kids! I dream of having my own. The pigeon is still underneath my bench. I hope it’s OK. I wonder what happened. Pigeons don’t usually fall on people waiting for their bus. At least, I’ve never experienced it before.

May 2, 1998, age 28

If our house reflects my state of mind, then I have a lot of dirty laundry in my brain.

The baby’s sleeping. It may seem like that’s always the case since that’s how it is when I write in here. He is such a joy. His smiles, his laughs even when he doesn’t know why it’s funny but he laughs with us because we’re laughing, his hands reaching out to us. I am so happy to be with him all the time.

Sept. 18, 2001, age 32

journalsI love the cool weather because it means I can bake and make soup and drink hot drinks all the day long, all the livelong day. And into the evening too. All night if I wanted. In fact, I could do nothing but bake, drink tea and stir soup if that was my heart’s desire, except for tending to my son’s needs which still include butt-wiping, helping dress and hugging. Just general attention.

Each Lego thing he builds, he asks, “Do you like my _____?”

“Yes,” I answer.

Then the more difficult, “Why?”

He’s building 40, 50, 60 different Lego things so I’m not always creative in my explanation for why I like it. Sometimes I resort to, “It’s fun.”  “You built it.” “I’ve never seen a ______ like that before.”

Now I am blowing up a purple balloon to be “superbig.” You can see how realistic my baking/tea-drinking/soup-making fantasy is. I can hardly write a few words without interruption. The balloon is really big. It’s bigger than the journal.

March 2, 2008, age 38

10 years ago I would have prayed for the problems I have today.

Feb. 2, 2013, age 43

God bless this pen, a gift from a friend who saw me in tears,
who gave me what she had, an ordinary object but could
contain ink and good wishes.

God bless this pen, a gift from a friend and bless this page,
bless its open hand, its white palm turned up to receive and
it catches all the words like tacks. They rest harmless and
no longer pinned in my mind.

God bless this page and its open hand and
bless this time, make my voice strong and
if it cannot be strong,
bless its weakness, and
if it cannot be weak,
bless all those with silent voices.

Bless the pen, the page and the voice.
Bless this time together.

10 thoughts on “My life in writing

    1. I appreciate your ability to enjoy language–from found poems to emails with many fonts–and your ability see the truth of who people are. After my poetry reading, you said, “You looked like you were in your element.” This insight still gives me strength. Thanks for being you and for your comment today!

  1. I love this! What wonderful writing and photographs. I am honored to be included as a “morning writer.” I was stimulated to write daily by Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way (which is for everybody!) and I am writing in my 121st journal. For me, it’s like cleaning off my desk. My mind works better after writing in the “morning” which is sometimes the afternoon.

  2. So lovely. You’re writing has such a bright energy in it. Really refreshing. Thanks for sharing.

    I am someone that writes when I have to. When the words have run round my head so many times that they’ve often cut painful ruts. I often resolve to write every day. I think it would be less painful if the words got out before they cut so deep. Still working on that. For now, I resolve to write when I get home tonight.

    1. What a powerful picture! “When the words have run round my head so many times that they’ve often cut painful ruts.” I appreciate your comment. Good luck in your writing tonight…and in the future!

  3. Your journals are amazing – the number and the continuity! Wow. I’m going to have to write more in my journals – I hardly ever do anymore, and I used to love it.

  4. This is incredible! I would be afraid to read what I wrote 10 years ago. Your comment at the beginning is perfect. “Because I have to.”

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