Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thoughts on writing and private/public creation

This article offers some selections from Woolf’s diaries and commentary on the mental state and creative process. A quote I liked: “Melancholy diminishes as I write. Why then don’t I write it down oftener? Well, one’s vanity forbids. I want to appear a success even to myself. Yet I don’t get to the bottom of it.” Although I have always loved writing and loved even more the idea of being a disciplined diarist with journals filled with my very own words and my life neatly organized, I have had little success in fulfilling that fantasy. I own dozens of beautiful journals given to me by well-meaning friends and family who know my interests and want to encourage me to create, but most of them are empty, or else have a few pages written in (usually torn out within a few days). I love journals and the idea of using them, but they scare me with the promise of what I could create with them. I find it infinitely easier to write my thoughts down in private blogs or other online spaces, or notebooks that are cheap and ugly and unlikely to last—the temporary reduces the threat of embarrassment. I can’t bring myself to ‘ruin’ a well-crafted notebook, even if it was created specifically to hold my mistakes. They make me feel as though my private thoughts must be polished and coherent and fully-formed from the start. And my writing is irregular, precisely because of the problem that Woolf nods to above. It is all too easy to become fixated on having a literary diary which recounts stories of your interesting and sophisticated life rather than the ordinary, mundane topics of most diaries. At that point it is no longer a diary but an exhibit, something artificial, something on display. In order for me to be able to write, certain conditions must be in place to remove that obligation to exhibition. I think all of us feel that paradox she underscores of the need to overcome emotional hurdles and stressors in order to be able to write, which is only fully possible through practice and constantly writing, constantly creating.

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