Friday, February 10, 2006

Writing About Writing About Writing

Today tastes like oregano, dark baking chocolate, and coffee.

Received a birthday giftie from my folks (yes, my birthday IS in April) and it looks like we're going to Vegas for the weekend next month. So now I'm celebrating the 90 days of birthday, it appears. (Was 12 days, then 30, now apparently it takes a whole quarter to get it done. I just thought you got more candles on your cake . . . who knew?)

And while the gift is particularly nifty keen and wonderful(whips out mat, bows in general direction of Albuquerque, mumbling "thank you thank you thank you o merciful and benevolent parents, ink of my Sharpies, lines in my paper, flecks in my deckle; I can never repay you though I live a thousand years)the thing that really caught my attention was the birthday card. Or rather, my father's handwriting in the birthday card.

I've envied his cursive since I began to write. I do okay if the actual technology of the writing implement causes me to go very sssllooowwwlllyyy and with great care to form the letters. I've a nice uncil hand with a toothpick and paint, f'r instance, and I do well with a fountain pen at a twisted angle, but give me a felt tip or pencil and I produce a scrawl that would make a doctor proud when I'm writing at speed. There's a reason I have a billion fonts on my computer and use computer-generated text when there's words on my ATC's--or I use a toothpick and paint.

Now, though, his hand is starting to slip; to take on those qualities that make you say, "It was an old person's handwriting." And I know it only seems sudden to me because I don't live at home any more and almost never see his penmanship. He doesn't have to sign my permission slips any more, or write notes to my boss about the dentist's appointment.

But at the same time it feels like it's happening overnight, like I woke up one morning in a strange body and my parents don't look like themselves any more--and who is that lady in the mirror!

And it's only unique because I'm the only me I have. Everyone wrassles with this sea change where you go to bed young and wake up in a middle-aged body with aches and pains that take longer to fade out than they did ten-fifteen years ago, and the grey in your hair isn't part of a Halloween disguise that you forgot to wash out from the party last night.


I'm doing more journaling than I ever did before. I remember being surprised that I'd kept this blog going for a year last fall. I tried to keep diaries at various times in school, but I never kept them for very long. I had the idea that a diray was about Big Important Matters, and well, my life wasn't Big; I wasn't a teen pop idol. And there's only so many times you can write, "Dear Diary: Got up. Went to school. Ate dinner. Went to bed." before a factual recounting of the day stops making sense.

Then I read Glen Campbell's Black Company series. One of the main characters in the first couple-three books is the physician, Croaker, who serves as the Annelist for the Company. The have always had an Annelist, from the days they were first commissioned, because if you don't keep track of what you've done, you can't keep track of who you are, especially if you're a wandering band of nomads. How do you keep a sense of identity and group cohesion when you pick up a person here, lose a man there, and don't even share a common language?

In some ways I wanted to be Croaker, I wanted to have a stack of journals I could point to and say, "I was here, I did these things, I said those things. I have lived a life." I began attempting to keep travel journals--first in a notebook I transferred to a computer file (lost in a crash that took over 300 pages of fiction with it. I had word salad, except, ironically, from a little writing exercise. They could retrive that bit of doggerel.) Then I found some nicely bound ones--but of course, spined bindings lack the flexibility to allow you to open them all the way up and write to the gutters. They work. They'll do for now.

But that's travelling. That's like trips to Mexico, and Italy, and the like. I'm glad to have them--they're my versions of stickers on the suitcase. I wanted something more like a day to day book.

Then it became clear that I needed to repack my head. I found Endsville, the place where all service terminates. And I'm not a good candidate for the talking cure.

I'd found a tool to bust through the crap and re-sort what was worth keeping and what had to go--but it involved a lot of writing. I mean a lot of writing--something like eight journals, two of which you'd hit daily and do three pages apiece in (SIX PAGES???!!!) and five of which you'd work sequentially, putting in an hour a week (or about six MORE pages) for a total of forty-eight pages a week, working to reframe your habitual mindscript and to dig out insights about behavior and attitude.

Forty-eight pages a week is a LOT--in two weeks, you'd have a slim novel. In a month, that's 200 pages. TWO NaNoWriMos, in other words. In the past, when I'd write, each and every word came in blood. The work was good, and needed little editing and polishing--but DAMN. I'd spend almost as long looking at the page, re-reading and chopping at what I'd done as I did putting words there to pick at.

But well, there I was. In Endsville, where you can take the easy way out--but that's awfully final.

So I grabbed eight journals, and got going. The morning ritual is pretty well set in stone, and the evening ritual is getting there. Next month, I'm going to make an equal point of devoting time to the weekly journal, and get that habit down.

I wonder what it will be like to travel now--I'll be carrying nearly as many journals as I will pairs of clean panties.

So now I'm reading Robin Hobb's Soldier's Son trilogy--or rather, the first book in the trilogy, Shaman's Crossing. Lo and behold, the eponymous soldier's son is gifted with a fine journal in which to record his exploits at his coming of age ceremony.

It's a big deal in that world--the first son inherits, the second son serves as a soldier, the third is for the priesthood, the fourth is an artist. The soldier sends home filled journals to record the military doings of the family, and the old and noble houses have stacks and stacks of volumes in the libraries.

So now it looks as if I'll get my wish--one travel journal completed, an ongoing diary on line, and a stack of closely-written journals about day and night and the past.

Monday, February 06, 2006

So this is February . . .

Today tastes like vanilla-flavored sand, mists on a busy city street, and bacon. Not very good bacon at that--half-done and chewy rather than crunchy. Send it back.

Li'l Brudder was in town to visit last week, so part of it's missing him and his particular take on the world. We were raised by the same parents in the same house, but in two very different families.

He left a book I had meant to purchase one of these days, but never got 'round to. Sometime the universe is like that. You address the sky, explaining that you need fruit. And what lands in your outstretched palm looks like a cross between a football and a pine cone, and smells like garlic, melon, and last week's gym socks.

"So what the hell is this? And what do I do with it??"

Comes the answer: "Durian fruit. Eat it."

And so you do, although you had apples in mind. Other times, you send your request out, and what you get back is a rusty skeleton key. So, grumbling about how this always happens to YOU, you pocket the key and keep on putting one foot in front of the other . . . until you happen upon a rusty gate with a huge old padlock . . . that the key fits into.

And when you unlock the gate, and swing it open, you come into an orchard of apples, where the windfalls clutter the ground and wasps buzz drowsily around, drunk on the fermented juices. The trees are old and untended, bowed under the sheer weight of their goods. So you pick a handful, and stuff a couple into your pockets for later.

Other times, you get exactly what you needed in exactly the form you anticipated.

The book? Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Li'l Bruddah insists that it's changed his life for the better. So I guess we'll see.