I suppose I’d prefer the polar vortex to the Beijing smog, but both would keep me, for the most part, inside. A bit of cabin fever. Perhaps I need to just embrace it, this cold… master it with fleece and hot cocoa, and lots and lots of books.
Today I read two mentions of notebooks, of journals. One by a writer who wrote about how she channels Joan Didion, when she’s feeling writerly. She reminded me of that wonderful Didion essay titled “On Keeping a Notebook,” which I joyfully reread. I love Didion. I need to channel her more often, now that my “office” is pared down and purty (no more book “wall,” a purging leaving only those books I either still need to read or just love with all my heart). I need to write.
The second was in the comments of a little blog post by Molly Wizenberg, on her blog Orangette, about cleaning out her teenage bedroom (with four bars of chocolate and “an undisclosed amount of wine”). Someone named “clevelandkat” wrote,
“When I was home for Thanksgiving last year, I opened a cupboard in my old room and found – lo and behold – my old diaries, starting in 1979 when I was 7 years old, and going through high school. As I flipped through them, I felt a sort of sick fascination – strangely voyeuristic, like I was reading someone ELSE’S diary – but with an odd sense of loss, and relief as well. It was a really disconcerting experience, exacerbated I’m sure by the several glasses of wine that had just been consumed. I meant to box them up at Christmas and bring them home, because I certainly don’t want my MOM to read them (!) but somehow I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want them in my house for some reason.”
So she too did the wine thing—if only I still drank… Anyway, I’m not going to go into the story of my old journals, or of my mother’s, both of which are in Valhalla, or in the dust floating over Beijing, for that’s an old story. But it did get me thinking of my own love of documenting, and even of revisiting my scribbles (despite the fact that it also feels a bit voyeuristic and disconcerting to me too (thank you clevelandkat for putting that into words). Didion said the “impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily…” I’m definitely the former, oft misunderstood.
This blog has an undefined purpose in my life. It’s not a branding, for I have nothing to brand or market or promote. It’s not clever or polished. There is no central theme. My devotion to it is spotty, at best. I avoid even looking at the stats, which I find creativity killers even when they are good. I often think of abandoning it altogether, even of deleting it, but then I decide that to do so would give it far more importance than it deserves. It is what it is, and is not what it is not. In many ways I think this has replaced for me those notebooks, those journals I kept for so many years, which held snippets of what caught my eye, my heart, my mind, words and drawings, photos and clipped words of others, or in Didion’s words…
We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.
Maybe that’s why I often have that little jab in my gut every time I hit “publish,” since part of me doesn’t want it out there at all. I’ve even considered making a new blog, this time leaving it private, as in just for me, but then I realize that if I were to do that again, to “journal” (I really don’t like that verb, it makes me think of craft stores and scrapbooking classes), it would have to be pen on paper, or pencil, or marker, it would have to be a beautiful notebook with Euro graph or pin grid (when I win the lotto I will stock up here). But really that would take a commitment and a self-importance, an angst that I no longer have, and probably won’t again, so for now I hope you’ll bear with me, dear endless sea of readers (ha), indulge me with your patience and allow me to jot down a few thoughts here, every now and then. It’s a compulsion, I suppose, this writing down of things, and this is, clearly, my own erratic assemblage.
Winter is coming, no winter is most definitely here, and thoughts go inward. I think I need a notebook.
The image above is by Elena Shumilova, whose work is magical. You can view more here.