This item was originally penned in 2011, but I updated it January 2021.
The reason we spent all those dark hours scratching our thoughts onto Mead notebooks are as individual as we are, but at the core is this: we recorded our intimate thoughts.
98% of the creative process creates useless, self-indulgent drivel. Only through that creative process can we cull diamonds from our fires, cut statues from our mountains.
My journal started as an assignment for English II class in tenth grade…
Fantasy. There is a great enemy in my spirit. That enemy lingers on forever, never ceasing to attack and condemn. I am my enemy.
I had just turned 15, and I was the kind of kid who listened to instructions and obeyed them. Our teacher told us to write half a page three times a week, which at the start I did assiduously. Within a few weeks, though, I discovered that I had more to say, or at least wanted to have more to say. By the end of the semester I’d given myself a standard of writing one whole spiral-bound notebook page each day.
In 1982, I went through a period of intellectual and creative silence. I wasn’t ready to admit I wasn’t writing as much as I expected from myself, so I left pages blank in my notebooks, and filled them in later with memories of those days. I can tell where because the ink is different.
By 1998, I was beginning to travel more, and wanted more portable books, so on my journal’s twentieth anniversary, September 5, 1998, I switched to smaller journal notebooks that were popular at bookstores at the time.
In high school Michael and my then-girlfriend Tina and I named my journal Lord Byron O’Malley, though the name never really stuck. For a while in the summer of 1980, we imagined I would publish my eleventh grade journal and get rich, so we typed up a few dozen pages. (I say “we,” but I didn’t know how to type, so Michael and Tina did the actual work.)
In college, I went through a period when I thought my old journal entries were an ocean of self-pity, which they were, and almost threw them all out. I’m glad I didn’t.
When I was 24, I became nearly obsessed with my journal from when I was 15, imagining it held the key to filling the emptiness that stood before me.
As I started blogging (which as we know is slang for web log, which itself is slang for an online journal) and expressed myself online more and more (including private entries only I can read), I wrote on paper less and less. However, I have recently made a concerted effort to write more by hand.
I still have more than enough hardbound volumes that are blank, and I guess I am saving them for the end times when the internet is no longer available and I need somewhere to write. Their potential is inspiring. All those blank pages are waiting to be filled.
Lately I’ve been feeling at least a little regret at not writing the right things in my journal. For example, if I had it to do again, I would write down every movie and television show I ever watched. I’m sure the list would be frighteningly long and boring, and there would be a lesson in that.
I will always write.