Continue to Obsess: A Writer’s Journal

6 February 2016

Virginia Woolf

How many times have I started a writing journal? I don’t want to spend the time researching an answer to that question.

Last week I received my newest book order from Amazon — the first I’ve made in a really long time. Included in that order is Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, published by her husband after she committed suicide. I find this inspiring — not the posthumous publication, or her suicide, but that she kept a diary about her reading and writing for twenty-two years. (Leonard Woolf published excerpts of what was kept from 1919-1941, however, he reports in the Preface that she began keeping a diary in 1915.)

In prior attempts [of keeping my own journal], I’ve always faltered. Well, stalled out completely, usually weary by writing my plans, or method, or emerging frustrations, none of which did anything to help the process, to keep moving toward completion and publication. Instead, I get severely introspective and self-critical, which leads to doubting the possession of all the attributes a writer must have: talent, passion, and support, not to mention discipline and definable purpose. [I ultimately toss aside the latest expensive, half empty book that caught my eye, that I was sure begged for my thoughts on writing to be penned within. It begins to gather dust alongside other shelved books: writers on writing, how to write a novel, the greatest poets of all time, the greatest modern romances, OMG THE GREATEST HISTORICAL GENIUS EVERRR biographies. And, of course, the stack of other unfinished journals.]

I begin again today because Woolf inspires me. Her words, her honest and sometimes honestly confused, or astonishing pinpoint opinions on countless subjects, including her own writing, as well as what I think of as her …  studied language, all of which inspires me to self-express, to document creativity, to write write write! She wrote through each of her novels, she wrote through emotional and physical pain, through crushing mental anguish. She self-expressed in a voice solely her own.

In one passage, she  dubs her diary “a kindly blankfaced confidante”. I suppose every writer needs such a thing.

Regardless, I think I need such a thing.

I need her inspiration to self-express in a strong studied voice … the very one I have longed for many years now, since first becoming attracted to the idea of being a storyteller,  of writing everything — poetry, fiction, memoir, essay. I have longed to express what I believe to be my true voice. Mine speaks with a different sort of studied language, tinged at the edges with a southern drawl — smart, but not antiquated. Thoughtful, yet quite unlikely to come off as pretentious thanks to that 20th century borne drawl, that tiptoeing in of slang and softened enunciation.

“Yesterdays’ was the first poem that revealed this voice. It was my AHA! moment — AHA! I can be a poet! This is my storytelling. I want everything I write to absolutely ring with that voice.

See! Read above all that I ever wanted from a writer’s journal! Until this moment, I have never expressed the very crux of what I must call the beginning of my writing “career”. There it is. How exhilarating!

If only my handwriting was better.

Also a good reason to keep a journal — to practice penmanship.

I Want All The Things!

Work isn’t honestly among the many things I want — a paying day job away from home, that is. I do like my job. I love interacting with all my coworkers. I actually enjoy being needed — a necessary cog among all the other cogs in the wheel that is the large company that is my employer. True, I’m what can only be considered blessed to enjoy my day job. Even so, I’m terribly jealous of all the hours spent in that office. Hours I can’t spend researching, piddling around the house waiting for pure inspiration to drive me forcibly into a chair, to hack away at the keyboard.

What if it suddenly became unnecessary for me to earn a paycheck? Would I devise a productive, pleasant schedule of writing, researching, and submitting? Would I yield the stories I’ve longed to write without becoming a TV binging slob and a writer only in my sugar-glazed fantasies? until I finally become so lazy even pretending is a worthless exertion?

Would I go on research road trips, conduct interviews, stay organized, keep a work schedule: 8a.m.-9a.m., music & poetry; 9a.m.-11a.m., researrch notes; 11a.m.-Noon, lunch & walk; Noon-4p.m., writing latest project; 4-5p.m., blogging …

How would I manage reading time? How would I manage interacting with other writers, participating in workshops … Would I waffle on the importance of these things?

I like to daydream about productivity and discipline eventually becoming my reality, first while holding down the day job, next when staying home becomes a viable possibility.

For now, the reality is I need a paycheck. I must walk the dog and clean the house. I must make time, and treasure the time I have with Tim. [Tim is the hubby, and the hubby  works some freakish hours.]

In between all this, I must write. The longer I go without writing (and submitting), the more I feel as if I am failing myself. People simply cannot thrive into old age feeling as if they’ve failed themselves. I imagine such leads to  brittle old age — sour, bitter, and painful.

Today, I listened to Tim voice his frustrations with himself — when he plays golf or bowls, regardless of how he performs on a given day, he is in a constant mental/emotional struggle to have the best equipment and to perform better more consistently.  Logically, he knows it is impossible for both of these strong desires to manifest on every outing, and so, a vicious cycle of almost manic-depressive proportion ensues. Golf has become an absolute love-hate relationship. He fears that bowling might suffer the same fate.

I’ve witnessed these frustrations play out for two decades now, but I can’t help to applaud the continued struggle. He is constantly striving to improve, to find the “sweet spot” in these (leisurely) activities, sure to validate all his spare time efforts. Today, I told him how much I applaud his struggle. Today, after listening to the renewed love-hate zeal and utter frustration, I told him this: It’s my theory that every human can benefit from such an obsession … or two. Something that will take us out of daily reality, keep us motivated to compete with ourselves, motivated to look forward to the next opportunity to improve, to talk about the process, to think about the process, to buy goodies that just might enhance the probability of one day achieving Happy Expert status.

So, I told him to go for it. Take the frustration along with the intense pleasure of those good days (if rare) when everything falls into place. Take the self-defeat, the doubts, the seeming waste of money on all the tools that might help. Take it all right along with fun, the sheer pleasure of doing something you love, even if it’s for one afternoon a week.

Keep doing it. That’s what I told him. Don’t take the frustration as a sign you should quit, that you’re doing it all wrong. Go do some more.

Hearing my own words inspired the obvious — I should just go do some more. Keep writing, keep reading, keep on until I am published and read and paid by other readers and writers.

Continue to obsess.

So, here is the culmination of one jam-packed day of inspiration — a new writer’s journal.

In fact, as I finish penning this first installment, it occurs to me that I should type it up as well. I should type every installment on my WordPress site … and entitle it, Continue To Obsess. 




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