And now, my 17th journal

So I just peeked. (Why do people start sentences and stories with “So”? When did it start? How did it happen?) I started filling my first journal — the $3.59 clearance book from Hobby Lobby — on Oct. 26, 2011, which would be almost exactly 10 years of regular journaling, except it wasn’t until April 15, 2015, that I got serious about it, coming back almost daily again and again to the point where I needed a new journal every four to six months or so. It took four years to get to the end of Journal One, six months to fill Journal Two, und so wieder.

Thursday morning I started my 17th journal, ranging from 192 to 400 pages, this one and its immediate predecessor being 240-page Moleskines. I have mined the pages to create blog posts and books over the years, but I have not plumbed all the depths, especially the random story ideas and thoughts about novels in progress. The first journal actually was a deliberate attempt to craft my novel The Imaginary Revolution, and since then I have collected blog posts into five more books, but most of the stories are still to come. In fact I just spotted an old idea for a dystopian novel in the first (or was it second?) journal that sparked something within anew.

I often re-introduce my hopes and goals at the beginning and end of these things, and comparing notes with myself can be frustrating. I keep writing things I didn’t set goals for. One book morphs into another, and others spring out of thin air. I did not wake up one morning to write a series of “writing rules,” nor did I set out to write a short story framed as 10 letters from an imaginary re-education camp established in a woodsy area by the USSA regime. They emerged in the just-completed 16th journal while I was thinking I ought to be writing something else. It’s an adult-onset attention deficit disorder kind of life. Maybe I should publish the journals as is under the banner AOADD.

Or maybe I should just R-E-L-A-X and write as I wish on these journal pages. As my most sage writing advice goes, “Write anything until you write something.” That concept literally emerged one day while I was sitting in this chair writing anything that came to mind. I should probably append that advice with, “and keep going!” Sometimes a whole passel of blog posts emerges in one sitting: I’ll be writing anything and then a nifty something will pop up out of nowhere.

At one time I’d stop there and say, OK, that’ll do, but then one day I thought hey, I still have time to keep writing anything, and out popped a second something, and then a third. So now I try to fill at least three journal pages in a session or set a specific time when I will write as much “anything” as I can, and then go back to see if I wrote “something.” Sure enough, not always right away but maybe later, I’ll go back and say, wait a minute, I have something here.

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