I do not journal. A pursuit, I am led to believe by some, that is almost synonymous with being a writer. I had a writer friend once, who was so distraught about my lack of journalling, that she promptly went out and bought me my very own journal, as if that would somehow rectify the problem. Writer’s write, they say. Which is true enough, of course, but we do not all necessarily write in journals.
To be fair, I must admit, I did attempt to fill that gift-book of accusingly empty pages. I even had a good run at it, diligently filling several. ‘Ah,’ I’d thought, so this is how it is to journal. Not so hard. Just a random run through the mind and an effortless setting down of thoughts. Easy. Until I glanced back over my words and read what had crawled onto my page. A few quick rips, the flick of a Bic, and my journal became empty once again. And stayed that way.
Writing is a courageous act. An author allows their innermost self to blister and fester and swoon across the page. You display yourself in a glass jar, out on the shelf for others to peer into, and judge or mis-judge, at leisure. And, you do not have the luxury of ripping out the un-pretty glimpses you would rather keep hidden.
Writing, at least for me, is bound by a certain contract. I do not so much think up what I will write, as I listen for the words that want to be written. Sometimes, the words are pleasant and playful. But, more often, they are direct and insightful. Sometimes, they dig a little deeper than I have been happy to follow. But, like I mentioned, for me, writing is a contract. I am committed to writing down whatever comes forward. Whether I want to own it or not. We all have our secret selves that act out discreetly inside our minds. A writer takes that self and exposes it straight across the page.
Which is not to suggest that all writing is a direct reflection of its author. Part of the fun of writing creatively is having the chance to play ‘dress-up’ with various characters. I don’t necessarily want to be a swamp-mouthed, whiskey-drinking ex-nun living in an abandoned rail-road car in upstate New York–but it really is interesting, and often surprising–to try that character on and roam around inside that sort of life for a while. Vicarious living as a career, I suppose you could say.
And that is where writing really opens doors for an author. There is no place that can hold us or restrict us. With the pen as our steed and our imaginations as our wings, the author becomes a Pegasus of freedom. As long as we are willing to be swept away into worlds never visited–and courageous enough to share with our readers what we find there–there is simply no place we cannot go, no character we cannot be, and no life we cannot live. And there is a great expansiveness in that.