The journal pit

I wanted to write a big post bitching about the new Facebook design, but it’s hopeless and a waste of time. I’ve wrung hands over the fact that I spend too much time there, and eventually that rug will be yanked from under me and it will become as fruitful as logging on to Friendster in 2014. Truth is, I like having a community online, and never feel like I can find one, and right now, FB is the closest I have to being in one.  But eventually everyone will grow up and drop out and who knows what will happen next.

All I do know is that this thing will be here until I decide it isn’t here, so I should point some more energy at it.  Blogging in 2014 can be a fruitless endeavor, as nobody reads and nobody plugs into a decentralized world of disconnected sites. But I can be guaranteed that my backlog here never goes away, and that any fruity ads that pop up in the sidebars only belong to my own products.

(Oh yeah, BTW, I published a book recently so go buy it.  That’s your ad for today.)

I recently finished filling up a journal.  It’s one of those Moleskine notebooks, a large-sized (digest, really: a hair under 8.5×5.5) with 240 pages.  The first entry is July 4, 2012 and I got it in a greeting card store in the Embarcadero while we were waiting to see the movie Bernie. I haven’t been religious about writing in paper journals every day, although it was a kinda-sorta new year’s resolution, so I’ve been getting better at it – I think the first half of this book was 18 months and the last half was three months.

I dug out the box of journals I’ve kept over the last twenty years, the “journal pit,” to file this one away, and could not resist digging through it.  It’s like a canker sore in the mouth I cannot not poke with my tongue, and I of course had to pop a claritin to fight off the dust mites and start digging into the old entries, just to see where my brain was at various points in time.

One thing that depresses me is that I fell out of the nightly habit of journaling for a long time, when my schedule changed away from that of a hardcore insomniac and the chronic depression backed off a notch or two.  I never, ever missed a day of writing in paper journals, and then my last 180-page spiral notebook goes from the end of 2006 to the beginning of 2011 or so.  Like the entire period of 2007-2008 when I worked my job in Denver, there were zero entries.  I have what I now call “the lost decade” which pretty much spans from when Rumored to Exist was published in 2002 up until Fistful of Pizza was published in 2011.  In that time, I published some half-ass projects, and had many false starts and failed attempts at big books, but in many ways, I have almost nothing to show for those years.  2011-2014, five books published; but that period was a long stretch of not knowing what the fuck I wanted to do.  The first half of it, I did pretty good in getting the pen to paper for personal journals.  The second half, not so much.

I don’t write in paper journals as an early step in my “real” writing, like as some hipster way of unplugging or whatever.  It’s just personal observations and current events and leg-stretching.  It’s not designed for anyone else to see, so that anonymity offers me the ability to do what I want and capture the things I might self-censor here or in my books.  I sometimes think it might be worthwhile to scan them or scoop out pieces, but that’s too much work.  For now, they sit in a box.

One of the things I noticed when I looked back at the old, old notebooks the other day is the crazy amount I experimented with writing when I was trying to figure it out in the early 90s.  Flipping through some entries from 93, 94, there were little bits like the things that ended up in (or not in) Rumored.  There was a lot of poetry, little phrases that grabbed me, and a lot of bleakness captured in the writing.  All of it is painfully bad, or at least most of it, but some of it is hilarious and interesting to me.

The other thing that got me was the massive time warp I’m in now, the speed of things.  When I don’t think about it, Christmas was last week; I just bought a car ten seconds ago, but it was like two months ago today.  I was just in Germany a few months ago, but I guess that was in 2012.  Time is flipping past at this incredible rate, which is one of the reasons I get so freaked out about not being on a writing project right now, a couple of weeks after a book got released.  If I blink, I’ll have another lost decade and it will be 2023 and I won’t have anything done.  Not to get grim about it, but I don’t have forever to let this stuff sit.

In contrast, I was looking at a journal from 1995 where I was talking about all of the stuff that happened “way back” in 1993.  Here is a timeline for you, with names replaced by letters like a 19th-century British novel:

  • I got dumped by someone (A) I vaguely dated a couple of weeks, although it was one of those stupid holding deals where she dumped me, went to Florida with her ex-boyfriend, and then expected me to pine for her for a couple of weeks and then run back to her after the next semester started.  I didn’t, but I was depressed about it the entire break and wanted to jump off a bridge, and when she got back, we had these weird meta-arguments that nobody could win, like some kind of deranged 1970s Soviet arms conference.
  • Over the break, this girl I had a weekender with back in 1991 (B) came into town, and we went out to the lake, sat around, and then made out for a while.  She then dropped me off at Lindley Hall and I agreed to myself to never acknowledge that this ever happened because I was so infatuated with (A) and things would work out.  Last I heard, (B) is now a lesbian and just got married to her long-time partner, which is now legal for them, so good for her, but the memory of the various stuff that happened during that 1991 weekend that I did with a lesbian is a bit of a mindfuck.
  • Despite the (A) saga, I was emailing with (C) and that became an out-at-second date thing for me.  (C) ended up dating a friend of mine who also coincidentally messed around with (B) for a minute after I did.
  • I met (D) and cooked dinner for her and had another date or two and envisioned this happily-ever-after life with her and then it became this long string of broken dates and I got incredibly depressed about it and started slashing my arms with a razor, which I now recognize isn’t the best plan for coping with your feelings.  Until I wrote about it in a short story decades later, the only person I admitted this to was (A) who was then briefly sympathetic to me for about ten seconds.
  • In my book Summer Rain, I mentioned this girl I briefly dated (fictionally) named Jenn.  (See chapter 16.)  She (E) had just fallen out of some abusive relationship, but was also an unmedicated manic-depressive on a major manic cycle, and I was a hopeless insomniac, and we started hanging out again.  I’d go to her dorm late at night and we’d sit around and talk and sometimes sleep together – not sex, just sleep in the same bed.  But like I said, she was seriously manic, and I recognized that this could get ugly fast and somehow magically didn’t let my dick do all of the thinking on this one and sort of took a big step back from it.
  • Then I met on the computer with (F) and we hung out and messed around and flirted and did everything-but for a bit, before that sort of randomly ended (although we’re still friends to this day.)
  • And then I met (G) and we hit it off and ended up dating for about six months and then she dumped me and it completely fucking gutted me and I didn’t date again until like a year after leaving college.  (Not for a lack of trying.)

So the timeline for all of the above was between Christmas 1992 and spring break, or March, of 1993.  TEN WEEKS.

In the last ten weeks, I’ve… read a couple of books, and worked out twice.

And reading these journals is very dangerous for me, because I fall down this horrible rabbit hole of nostalgia.  I’m in that dangerous state where I’m trying to think of ideas for the next book, and it’s very easy to think I should just Bukowski it and take all of these old journals and twist together some kind of coming-of-age story set in the 90s blah blah blah basically what I did in Summer Rain, but again.  And I tried to do that with this book I was writing during the Lost Decade, which is this 120,000-word pile of suck sitting on my hard drive, with no plot and no flow, just fifty or so pieces of memory that are divided into “stories” that aren’t.  It’s so painful to think of all the times I’ve looked at that folder and though, “with a little elbow grease, I could…” and then I need to go slam my dick in the door and prevent myself from even going down that road.  There’s nothing more painful than writing a book about your life and then having it not sell.

Anyway, not sure where I was going with this, except to say I need to write in these little paper journals more, and of course I need to be writing on here more.  And you need to be reading it more, so maybe I should be making it better.  Let’s see what happens.

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