Sunday, May 08, 2011
In an earlier post from back in the day, I talked about the importance of little notebooks, how the record of immediate thoughts allows a writer to flash back in time. Journals are almost time machines, bearing us back into the past, like something from Fitzgerald. I always wanted to be the kind of person who journalled, and now I am—I’ve been keeping stream-of-consciousness notebooks for almost three years now, a habit I developed after Cameron and also as a way to grieve the loss of my boat. Now I have a whole bottom drawer filled with the past, and opening any of those pages allows me to inhabit the space that I lived at a separate moment in time.
In church today I sat behind a girl and her grandmother, and during Prayers of the People Form VI she whipped out her diary (direy, as she spelled it) and began to write. She hid her words from her grandma, but I could read them: “Dear Direy, Nana treats me like a baby. She won’t let me sit with my friend.” I flashed back to when I used to keep a diary with a lock in grade school, and all of the events that traumatized me then but now have dissolved into the past. I have that diary floating around somewhere. I’m so happy I have a record of my eight-year-old thoughts.
One of my favorite Bob Dylan stories is that when he was nineteen, living in Greenwich Village in the sixties, he carried a spiral-bound notebook every where he went. His friends would see him stop, in the middle of the street, on a sidewalk, whip out a pen and jot down whatever he happened to have thought of. I imagine him standing at a streetlight, the crowds moving around and past him, annoyed, while he chews on a pen, lost in thought. There’s so much I admire about him as an artist, and one of the things I most admire is the way he didn’t allow what anyone else thought to bother him, ever. He stole an entire record collection of a friend at the University of Minnesota, because he believed he could make better use of it.
He was so focused on his calling. He knew what he was put on the planet to do, and he let nothing get in his way. Not the folky naysayers or the critics or the people who hated gospel. He followed his own path, no matter the consequences, no matter the cost. He didn’t even give in to embarrassment, which I often feel like is my greatest enemy. He was brave enough to stand on a street corner in a crowd and write. I wonder where his notebooks are now?
I journal, but I’m not always good at tracking those flashes of insight my subconscious sends me throughout the day. I found myself sitting at a stop sign today when a story came, a story that’s now dissolved like a dream. It happens all the time, three or four times a day. I push the stories back where they came from, stuff the ideas down. I don’t want the burden of having to write them. I’m not strong enough for their weight.