Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Me and My Journal(s)

Throughout my whole childhood, well-meaning adults bought me journals as gifts. Sometimes with crappy locks, sometimes with absurd themes, generally with flowers on their puffy covers. I look back and am complimented by this pattern, as it means that adults generally thought I had something to say. At the time, though, it annoyed me, because even if I'd written a two-page diary entry every day for my whole childhood I never would have filled up all these little books. There were TONS of them, given me by all sorts of acquaintances both close and distant. And besides, most of these journals had flowers on the cover. They were so not my style. (A memorable teacher gave me a wonderful sun/moon-themed journal. What a kindness this was.) Alas, as a lass I was an intermittent diary-keeper, and I wish I hadn't been, because most of my childhood is a blank and I'd like to have recorded the real experience of it rather than my faint impressions.

In college, I got into Anaïs Nin, and subsequently into obsessive journal-keeping. I wrote and wrote and wrote about all the things that happened to me, whether significant or trivial. Later I discovered online journals (they weren't yet blogs), and kept one of those until it inevitably got political, since college-age women and thoughtful discretion don't really mix well.

I am forever chasing a journal I bought during the Nin phase: roughly 8.5x11, pebbled black cover, well-spaced lines, bright white paper. It was the simplest journal in Barnes & Noble, and I adored writing in it, because the pages laid flat very well and they were so nice and big. (Diaries that are half-sized with standard binding completely suck for actually writing in, btw. The sun/moon journal had metal rings instead, which is better but bears its own woe.) I filled it completely and next found, in blind luck, a dramatic red velvet swirled journal with much narrower lines on its paper. It, too, was around 8.5x11 and it, too, laid nicely flat when I wrote in it. It was even more satisfying to fill up a whole page in that one since there were so many more lines, but it was also more of a challenge to do so. I think I got that one in Europe. I know it was in a non-chain bookstore. Anyway, I filled it all the way up, too, but it was around the time I finished that I abandoned paper for keyboard.

I still covet journals, still walk past that tall shelf at B&N with greediness in my heart. For a short time I bought beautiful, flat-lying journals when I spotted them, regardless of whether I needed them. They began to pile up like the gifts of my childhood, so I stopped; some of those books are empty still.

I have not yet relocated the black pebbled journal I held so dear, or any like it. Every time I think I find one, I open it up and it's unlined. Sketchbook strikes again.

I've been using a medium-sized notebook with nice lines, lamely "aged" pages, and clocks on the canvas-ish cover for my notes since the spring. I've also taken to using it for writing full text when sitting at my computer isn't turning my creative crank. Having notes and outlines for half a dozen projects mixed in with full text for two other projects has gotten confusing, and not the good kind of confusing where you flip through and bask in wonder at your own marvelous creative brain. The bad kind where I don't know how to find notes on one story or another, whether they're before or after the six closely written pages of a different story.

The book's now more than half-full, so I thought maybe I'd just buy a full-sized journal for the full text writing I seem to want to do longhand, and fill up the rest of this one with notes. So I did; I went to the mall and bought a Moleskine yesterday. I'm pretty sure I heard an angelic choir when I took off the plastic. The cover is so soft I thought it might melt in the heat of my hands, and while it's a little taller and narrower than I would like, with a thinner rule, it's still the closest journal I've yet bought to the vanishing black pebbled one.

Within the Moleskine was a little brochure with, in eight languages, the most absurdly immodest history of anything I've ever read. Apparently Pablo Picasso would not have succeeded without the obvious ancestor of Moleskine, which in my universe is known as "a notebook". It was like the goddamn J. Peterman catalog. A sweater's a sweater, yo.


After spending an hour on that errand, I of course was no more ready to actually write than I was before I spent $30 on blank paper. But now I will be ready to write, that's the point. Yeah.

This brings my total of active notebooks to four. One private diary, one mini notes book, one larger notes book (clocks), one large full-text book. Which is pretty sad, and totally unnecessary in the writer-in-a-garret scenario into which I always romanticize myself. A voice echoes down the years: Finish what's on your plate before you go back for more. But there are just too many beautiful journals out there.

Ironically, my private diary has flowers on the cover. But it looks like this,

not this.

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