In a 2012 interview in the New York Times, Philip Roth said,”Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.” We work under the assumption that there will be revisions and deletions, especially if we are working on a longer text. Sometimes the work never sees the light of day.
Recently, I indulged my paper addiction and bought a new journal. It’s really pretty, the paper is thick, my G2 pens write smoothly on the pages, and it even has a ribbon bookmark. I’m really excited about writing in this journal. I bought this journal partially because I wanted to start writing some of my fiction by hand. I read several memoirs and “a writer on writing” books recently (I highly suggest Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running), and these authors suggested the back-to-basics approach of writing by hand.
I have enjoyed the physical act of writing in my journal, whether it is fiction or just about my day. There is something about watching your own handwriting unfold across the page that is lost in the uniformity of a computer screen. When writing by hand, you can see your handwriting change from the top to the bottom of the page, scrunching up on the left-hand page and opening up on the right-hand page as there is more room for the action of your forearm. You can also watch your handwriting change with the pitch of emotion. I can tell how excited I was with a particular passage with how many letters I elided together in my cursive (as a side-note– cursive is no longer taught in school–let that sink in), or how calm I was because I carefully printed each and every “s” and “r”.
As with any new habit, there are pros and cons. You take up smoking: you look really cool to all the 14-year-olds on your block, but you go around with a hacking cough and no one wants to kiss you. You start riding bicycles competitively: you have a killer physique, but you have to wear a lot of spandex. (Like, a lot. I think they give you shares in DuPont when you buy your first road bike.) When I started writing in my new journal, I began writing more, but only in that journal. I haven’t written a blog post or opened up a document on the computer. No guilt here, I have been writing a lot, but there’s no publication.
To bring it back to the Roth quote, when writing in a journal like I have been doing, I have been ignoring the “humiliation;” that is, I have been moving through the journal and filling up pages but not going back and revising. All of these things are important, as is the work that we all do here. Blogging, publishing, putting ourselves out there for the possibility of humiliation, whatever you want to call it; it’s important because it keeps us in the mind of the reader, not just our own play land.
Kudos to all of you out there who are publishing on a daily or weekly basis!