On Not Keeping A Notebook — Until Now
Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss. — Joan Didion, On Keeping A Notebook
The above is from the classic Joan Didion essay On Keeping A Notebook. The essay can be found in Didion’s even more classic 1968 collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the timelessness of which applies not just to the legacy of the essay and the book but also to the trappings and driving sentiment of the prose. As with so much of Didion’s work, the aesthetic immediacy of the moment overrides the actual truth. (I say this as Didion’s biggest fan and stylistic copycat.) As lyrical as the notion may be, I do not believe that keepers of notebooks are an especially neurotic lot.
I, for one, am an anxious malcontent who has never kept a notebook. Whenever I’ve wondered why this is so, I’ve always come back to an answer that is so fundamentally unsatisfying as to be shameful: I couldn’t be bothered. Even as a little girl, when I wrote stories with such a fury that one weekend (according to a story my mother told for decades) I used up every scrap of paper in the household and started writing on bathroom tissue (like a prison inmate!), keeping a diary never held much interest. It felt like a waste of resources. Even as a child, I had a freelancer’s temperament. If I was going to write I was going to get credit for it. I was going to be read by the public or compensated with money — ideally both.
That’s not to say that I haven’t written hundreds if not thousands of pages over the years that led to neither of those outcomes. Nor is it to say I don’t write lots of stuff down. I’ll spare you excerpts from the digital stickies on my computer desktop on which I jot down notes about dreams that seem significant; lately the dreams seem to feature lost dogs and my teeth falling out. I’m just saying that I rarely write without some kind of goal in mind. I write on an as-needed basis. And while it’s true that since writing is the only way I’ve ever paid my bills as-needed has always meant all the time, I’ve never had what you might call a “daily writing practice.”
I guess until now. Yes, friends, I am blogging now. As is typical for me, I’m about fifteen years late to the party. Back in 2005, when it seemed like everyone was blogging, I was getting my first Blackberry and catching up onThe X-Files on DVD. But Medium, which has generously supported me the last few years with a column, has invited me to use this space to practice this venerable tradition on a routine basis. So I will be here at least once a week, more likely twice or even three times. I’ll share with you what I’m thinking about, what I wish I wasn’t thinking about, what I wish I didn’t have to think about. I’ll try to make it interesting. In lieu of that, I’ll try to make it brief.
So here we go!