Back from two weeks in the southern California desert, and a return to my trusty keyboard. Somehow I lost the interest in writing while away from home, although I did write one journal entry on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet PC. I dislike seeing empty dates in my journal when looking backward. I have learned to accept that sometimes my mind has blank spells, or that keeping this long-drawn interior dialog is sometimes inconvenient. I know how it is for someone who enjoys self-expression to just stop one day and not pick up the discipline again for many years.
In the years when writing novels and not being able to sign on with a publisher, I continued to want to write, but knew that the effort would probably never earn me any money, and so began a slow death inside of me. I did fall into a career as a technical writer, however, so I got to hang around with words and work with them daily to produce an income. If I had not been the want-to-be novelist first, I probably never would have become a technical writer. The career as a technical writer kept me close to the craft of expressing myself, but the thought of keeping a journal, particularly one on-line, did not occur to me for many years. I just considered that part of me that wanted to write to be some ghostly and lifeless entity that I must learn to dismiss. I saw that trying to write on my own for a living, rather than for a corporation, was going to continue to cause me great despair.
Now I write just for the sake of writing, understanding that my words may not go very far and may not have much impact on the world stage. Learning to step back and not expect so much from the craft has allowed me some pleasure that I might not otherwise have experienced. And if I were to quit writing for myself, stop keeping a journal, the pain would not be so intense as when I was young and realized I had to stop expecting to become a published novelist.
I should have started keeping a journal when I stopped trying to sell a novel. I don’t understand why I never adopted the habit. Just the other day a friend of mine from 40 years ago sent me a photo of myself, about the time I was writing my first novel. Here’s this thin, serious-looking, twenty-something kid, standing and looking off afar, obviously full of thought and intent. I would enjoy a brief return to his thoughts and the words he might have selected in order to convey them.
Nowadays, when I stop writing for a week or two, I ponder whether the fascination with words is over for good. Would it mean to me that I am seeing life from some new important perspective, some new way that perhaps is so interesting to me that words would be useless in describing? I know I lean on writing as a means of heightening my awareness. I look a little more carefully at events of the day and wonder what might be said of them. The literature I have been reading on mindfulness encourages one to step outside of self and examine thoughts and actions from a detached point of observation. I find myself doing some of that in writing, without having to become a Buddhist.
I felt overly relaxed yesterday when returning home from the desert. I hadn’t looked closely enough at much of anything around me to consider writing about it. When I arrived home in the early afternoon, I had mail to sort through, bags to unpack, photos from the desert (and a mysterious canyon I explored one morning) that required my maintenance efforts. And then the long hard drive home, some 10 hours, caused the road vibrations to put me in a stupor. I looked at my keyboard more than once as I wrestled with the day’s activities, and thought of just sitting and pulling together a few of my thoughts. It was only in this late evening that I am able to convince myself to sit and think for a spell.
In the next day or two some of what went on in the desert may come back to me in the form of words. I like to think of the analogy of driving away from tall mountains and turning to look back at them. Up close, I can hardly tell their outline, but from a distance I get a much grander understanding of their size.