Sunday, September 21, 2008
There are the big A4 ones, for dreams and morning pages, Plot outlines and ideas that never made it into a story but are still trapped there like sacrificed insects in the pages of some explorers journal. Pressed flowers that were so pretty when they were first put between the pages, but have since become brittle and faded. Still, one day...
There are the handbag sized A5 ones for everything - lists, scribbles, dreams, travel observations, notes scribbled on the move, rehearsal notes, phone numbers that never get transcribed into the address book.
And then there are the little pocket sized ones, which mostly have lists: usually the to-dos generated from being a theatre maker. Shopping lists. Props that need to be made. Moments that need to be fixed, plot holes that need to be plugged.
The last post - the wall thing - is a fragment that emerged from a dire period of writers block earlier in the year. I was all out of fresh words last week, as I had to commute to Pretoria daily to teach at the Schools Festival. A workshop on the Hero's Journey - lots of fun and storymaking with fresh young minds but by the end of the day I was exhausted by that dreadful drive. One of the joys of being a work-from-home freelance writer is that I get to avoid traffic, and so when I am confronted with it more than once in a week it puts me in a Very Bad Mood. Poor sods who do it daily, I cannot even fathom it. So, yes - that feeling was evoked again. The Wall. I think this must have come out of reading Haruki Murakami, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Wow what a great book. I say no more. Read it if you haven't.
So anyway, an idea I've been toying with gently for a while, is to start mining these notebooks and throwing a few bits and pieces into this here blogspace and see how well they withstand the light of day.
Some of them date back to very many years ago. I've not been able to throw them away and have lugged them from Grahamstown to Zambia to Cape Town to Joburg. Ten moves in the last 13 years. Believe it or not. (Yes, I have shallow roots, the subject of another post another time). Maybe if I had a terminal disease or had to go to prison I would probably burn the lot. Maybe its my fear of memory loss that prevents me from actually chucking them away. I hold on to the hope that one day I will read through all of them, and find patterns and meanings and sequences that I could not see at the time. Treasures that I will respin and they will become the burning best seller, the great African novel. Etc...
Mostly though, they are filled with what my dear friend JP calls 'anal scrapings'. Of necessity, you know. Having a journal is NOT the same as having a blog, obviously. As Natalie Goldberg says, in that gorgeous book, Writing Down the Bones, morning pages are not the real thing, they are the training for the race. I think of morning pages as the act of clearing the dead leaves out of the gutters so that flow can happen.
Writing in these notebooks during darker times of my life has kept me sane. Or should I say, has prevented me from severer bouts of insanity than i was otherwise prone to. I have counselled myself out of relationship confusion, where my boundarylessness led me to lose sight of who I was. I have used words like tiny pinprick torches to light the way through dull periods of monotone depression. I have chastised, comforted, complained and plotted world domination.
There are great empty gaps, periods where I didn't write at all, and I wonder now, was it happiness - daily contentment, no need to push pen across paper? Was it misery - too lost to remember the notebook therapy? Or busyness - those heady weeks of rehearsal where you are rushing to and from, no time for introspection, just go go go and run run run?
In any case, there they stand, shelves of them, snapped shut and slightly accusing. Boxes of them, waiting for the day when...
I seldom look back. Oh no. Occasionally I page through them, glass of red in hand. When I do this, its usually the dreams that are most interesting - like I didn't see it at the time but now that dream language is blindingly clear.
Some of the writing makes me laugh, and feel old and wise. How I used to tie myself in knots, complaining of the same old thing month after month (particularly the relationship stuff) and then - duh, one day I don't write about that anymore - must have solved it. One of the reasons I started a blog was simply because I felt I had so much writing and no readers, so much secreted away, and no bloody mirror, no feedback, no exchange.
So its a very brave or perhaps rather foolish child who stands before you now and declares that she is going to play a form of black box with her notebooks and select random samplings to extract and post here.
Oh not really random, c'mon I'm not that cruel. I'll find little snippets that don't completely make me cringe. Like the meme where they describe the contents of their handbags, this is my version of petticoat lifting, which is already starting to make me feel a little anxious.
I'll start next time!
And if the posts degenerate into anal scraping, I have my trusty friends who will tell me so. You know who you are.