Friday, 21 May 2010

Write Every Day

Here's a response to 'PohanginaPete',whose wonderfully diverse photographic blog appears almost daily. I'm proud of the fact that he's my nephew, and that we share a sort of addiction to writing.

It is an addiction, in my case. Throughout most of my life I have kept journals and diaries, and their purpose has been to clarify my thoughts. I have never intended them to be read by anyone else, and, for that reason, many have been consigned to the bonfire.

Seeing one's thoughts go up in flames has been a truly cathartic experience.
After the traumatic year of my husband's death I wrote pages of grief, anger, misery and self-indulgence. There is no longer a place for those feelings in my life, although there was a burning need to express them at the time. Burning was the right word, and the right end for them.

The pages above are from one of my journals of 1968, when I was working in Saudi Arabia.
They have been lost in the depths of the attic for forty years, and when they emerged during a down-sizing clear-out I was amazed. Did I really go there, do that, think that? I must have been a more adventurous and interesting person that I could ever acknowledge.
I liked myself better, because of these faded pages.

Throughout the first years of their infancy I kept daily diaries for my sons, trying to record not so much of my own feelings (which were totally overwhelming at times) but their own developing skills and actions. If blogging was possible then I would have used it for them. The nearest thing I've seen to it is the record being built here, 'Bud of a Bud' which will give a little girl the loving details of her first years.

Many years on and some of my writing comes back again in unexpected ways. The rediscovery of ancient journals has lead to the rediscovery of ancient friendships, and their development into new joys.
It is possible, with some very slightly judicious editing, to give back to my sons an interpretation of the day-to-day living of their first few years; at times hilarious, at times very touching, at times demanding and exhausting, but feeling real and as honest as I could be.

The words go from the brain, into the hand, through the pen, on to the paper.
When I pick up the pen I seldom have a clear knowledge of what it will produce.
Sometimes the words stay there, in the Moleskine notebook, in the smaller notebook in the kitchen, the smaller-still one in the handbag.

Many of them go deeper and wider and end up in different form.
The journals of '68/'69 became published work which led to a second career in writing, but I actually had my first writing published when I was six years old.

Truly addictive.
As essential as breathing.


persiflage said...

This is such an interesting post, and I love the way you describe the writing process, and how the words travel from the brain to the pen. It makes me wish I had written more - the everyday stuff, and not only the crises, and the painful things in life. Recently I was reading old letters from friends and family, but my own letters, of course, were not there, and I had destroyed the journals I kept in my youth. So much is forgotten!

pohanginapete said...

And I'm proud you're my aunt :^)

You say, "The words go from the brain, into the hand, through the pen, on to the paper. When I pick up the pen I seldom have a clear knowledge of what it will produce." So much is true about that statement — not just the plunge into the unknown, but the way the words so often seem to have a life of their own; the way they use us at least as much as we use them. So often, I've sat back, looked at what I've written (or the words that appeared), and wondered where on Earth they came from.

Relatively Retiring said...

Persiflage: It's the mundane, everyday stuff that I find most valuable and honest now. The painful and passionate has been consigned to the incinerator, as those emotions are fleeting and I don't want to revisit them. Writing them out in the first place served a purpose.
I'm sorry you've destroyed your youthful journals.

P.Pete: Thank you.
Isn't writing exciting? Isn't it all great? (And I really don't want to hear the possible interpretation of a psychotherapist because I just ENJOY it all so much!)

Reading the Signs said...

How the words come out: yes, I have felt this too, but it feels as though it comes from somewhere else in the body - the heart perhaps? I don't know, but it is a physical act, the writing. It is always different when straight onto computer screen.

I am a recent convert to the lovely Moleskine.

Isabelle said...

I too am a compulsive writer. I've got journals I've kept since the age of 15 - and haven't burned - yet.

Relatively Retiring said...

Reading the Signs: Thank you for leaving a comment. The writing process is a mystery, and the difference between pen and keyboard is also fascinating.
I hope the warmth and sunshine are helping you.

Isabelle: Don't burn them unless you are absolutely certain no one else may ever read them. You can always do some editing-out of the really embarrassing bits!

Frances said...

The poet Les A Murray always, so he says, writes with pen, pencil, biro, whatever.
I feel an almost physical continuity from the thought through to the pen.
When I first got a word processor, in about 1994, it shut me up completely for a long time.

Nowadays, I wonder if different areas of the brain are accessed by each medium? It feels that way to me.

carol b said...

How kind of you to link to my writing here. I write 'bud' as a record for our daughter and to explore and work out how i'm feeling about being a mother.
I too have written in one form or another for most of my life, dipping in and out of it as time passes.
I have bundles of letters and diaries, which are rediscovered each time I move you say, so interesting to glimpse the person you were...

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances: There's scope for some interesting research there, and I agree that the two processes feel different. I (unintentionally) have separated the two into private writing with a pen, and anything more public on the keyboard. I couldn't do it the other way round.

Carol: The great advantage of the blog for Scarlett is that it will remain there for her and her children (can you begin to imagine that?). It can't be lost accidentally in a house move, as a diary may be.
Hope you're having a good holiday. You know how to pick the weather!

leslee said...

Published at 6! How wonderful! And working in Saudi Arabia must have been so interesting.

I destroyed some journals awhile back - full of stuff that needed to get out, I guess, but didn't need to be revisited. I'm afraid I've had a harder time writing in my book journals any more, unless traveling, as blogging has taken over. I think if I had more contemplative time in my life I might handwrite more. I do my best thinking now not sitting but walking, composing in my head.

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: There was a wonderful thing called 'The Children's Newspaper' edited by Arthur Mee, which published stories, poems and articles written by children. There must be many of us who were addicted for life after seeing our names in print while we were still in the Infants' School.

Frances said...

I'm reading "Changing Places" by David Lodge, at the moment, Relatively Retiring. He speaks of the typed messages from USA vs the handwritten English, as Gutenberg versus the manuscript.
I do admire your handwriting in the photo. Neat, consistent, regular, integrated.

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances; Strange coincidence. I'm
reading David Lodges' 'Deaf Sentences' because so much of my professional life has been involved in education of the deaf/sign language/linguistics, and I'll now follow up with 'Changing Places'.
My handwriting is thanks to a good old school system, with instruction on how to address an envelope to a Bishop, general deportment etc. I guess you are of the same Old School!

Frances said...

Relatively Retiring: I began "Deaf Sentence" earlier this year, and although I found the writing admirable, the story of this innocent who seemed to be being drawn inexorably into a disaster, was to me like watching a slow motion accident unfolding, and I put it aside.
"Changing places" was published in 1975, and is pleasingly both droll and interesting, and a little nostalgic.
For example, the American academic visiting England turns on the sports channel of the television, expecting to see the superbowl or such, and instead finds segments on ladies'archery, ping pong, and fishing. I remember when "sports" on Australian tv was like that, and I dearly wish it back again!

Relatively Retiring said...

Frances: Yes, I agree about the beginning of 'Deaf Sentence', but the disaster is averted, so perhaps you might try again?

Lucie said...

I find writing very therapeutic & although some is too excruciating to read again a lot of it just makes me think ... 'life goes on ....fancy being so upset about that back then'.

herhimnbryn said...

Hallo again RR,
I understand the need to write tings down. I did that a great deal when I first moved to Australia. It helped to clarify, vent etc. Now, like you I shall build a bonfire, I think.

herhimnbryn said...

That would be tHings!

Relatively Retiring said...

Lucie: Yes, wonderful for the sense of proportion, but also good to remember just how much raw emotions can hurt.

HHnB: Tings or things - be careful with the bonfire! Your first experiences of Australia must be too valuable to lose.

Molly said...

RR, I've been here a few times to read this, but always dashing off....I too, have always written, scribbled, dabbled. I remember, as a very small child, covering a page with squiggles, as I had seen grown-ups do, then presenting it to my non-plussed father to "read!"
Whenever I'm angry, hurt, confused or broken-hearted, I reach for a pen. Writing it all down helps unravel the thoughts and emotions and make some sense of them. Such a p;ity that such beautiful handwriting is not taught in the schools anymore. The more progress we make, it seems to me, the further behind we get!

Molly said...

Amazed to find your mention of Arthur Mee here! I still have The Childrens' Encyclopedia we had at home published by him. I loved leafing through it as a child, and still do.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: Thank you for your comments - we have a lot in common.
I have the Children's Encyclopedia, still in its specially made bookcase, up on the landing. When I now look at the vocabulary and range and depth of topics covered I find it hard to believe that I was compulsive reader of this from the age of about eight. Arthur Mee did so much for 'wordy' children.