Hi everyone. I’m just going to talk today a little bit about the importance of keeping a journal if you want to be a writer. The reason I say that is I think it’s through journaling that I really found my voice as a writer, and I think that’s reflected in modern times on blogs, people blog to find their voices, so that’s my speculation anyway. People are just more open about sharing stuff now online than back in the days when I kept a journal and it was meant to be for me. Although I did as part of a class keep a journal, which is why I’m, I’m suggesting doing it. It’s kind of like, okay, I learned from doing it and you can learn from doing it too. But I think the reason I wanted to talk about this also, I had the opportunity to basically do an informational interview with two students at the University of Maryland.
Three students. One of them didn’t appear on camera, and I’m really sorry I didn’t get to hear his voice or see him. I had a good time talking to them, and it was interesting because later I thought the one thing I didn’t suggest was keeping a journal. I wish I had. So in any case, I happened to find these notes. This is something I wrote. I had completely forgotten that I had written it. That’s what’s astonishing. But it tells you a little something about what it’s like to be a writer. I think. I’ll just read it to you.
March 4th, 2003. I’m sitting at Gate D1 in PDX, the Portland International Airport. I came to Portland to see Dad for probably the last time. Not that he’s dying, at least not physically. It’s just that the next time I see him, he may not recognize me.
At that point, I will effectively be dead to him, even if he’s not dead to me. It’s amazing how much stuff I forget. It’s a little unnerving when people say, “Remember when …?” and I don’t. I draw a complete blank. It makes me wonder what other stuff I’ve forgotten. It bothers me when I remember a line from a movie a certain way, but when I see the movie, it comes out another way. I’ve read whole novels and forgotten what they’re about, but if I think really hard, I might be able to remember what I ate yesterday.
As the waiting area at Gate D1 fills with people, my heart sinks. All these people will be getting on the plane with me. There’s an annoying little boy yapping in a high-pitched voice two rows over. People make me sick.
I guess I was in a bad mood. <laugh>.
[Resumes reading] Especially high-pitched kids,
I guess, especially when your dad may not recognize you next time that he sees you, assuming you get the chance.
[Resumes reading] Yet, I have nothing against any of these people. People make me sick, especially high-pitched yappy kids. Yet, I have nothing against any of these people. If one of them keeled over, I’d probably care. Maybe even call for help. I think about writing a description of these people, but I really can’t.
That’s what I say, <laugh>,
[Resumes reading] Even though they all look the same, they’re really all different. For instance, there’s a guy with a brown wide-brimmed hat and a leather jacket standing nearby. There’s a kid, maybe high school or college aged in baggy jeans and a hooded sweatshirt with a black baseball cap turned backwards on his head and earphones. There’s a guy in his thirties or forties with short, reddish brown hair, dressed entirely in denim except for a black shirt. He looks bored, watchful.
There’s a girl (woman actually) in her twenties or thirties with dark brown hair, shoulder length and a big nose. She’s wearing a leopard print skirt and a long-sleeved black top. She’s carrying an orange-brown purse with brown trim and a child that might be a year or so old or more. I’m a terrible judge of such things. There’s a man in a black cowboy hat, jeans, plaid shirt, and tan jacket. There’s a 40-ish woman wearing a stylish black top with white trim, jeans and beige suede-looking shoes, pull-ons, no laces. She has short frosted blonde hair and earrings. She’s writing something in a book. The expression on her face is absorbed, probably similar to my expression right now. I write this all down, but it doesn’t really tell you much.
The kid has finally shut up. For the moment, I feel much better. Despite the way this reads right now, I don’t intend to keep my life journal in here.
I mean, seriously,
[Resumes reading] What I’d like to do is write down things I want to remember and take note of how I remember them, like these people. I’ll read this a year from now and be surprised, no doubt.
I was, many years later.
[Resumes reading] It’s hard to say what I’ll find noteworthy or not. I haven’t written a thing about the “I Love Moo York” cow near the gate [actually, it was near the TSA checkpoint], but it is noteworthy in its own way. Apparently it was put together by kids in Portland after 9-11, I assume. It’s very colorful with pictures of New York scenes and people of many colors on it. It’s standing behind a barricade with a sign that says, “Please do not touch.”
At least, I think it said that. Memory is a funny thing. Someday, I may think things that happened 30 years ago are happening to me now, like Dad. We’ll see. I guess. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to keep track of things. Remember story ideas and interesting sights. Take notes. Hopefully I won’t forget to do it.
Then I write “Bob – 300 pounds of livid flesh.” That’s a quote from my dad who was talking about somebody named Bob when I went to visit him, and he described him as this awful person, and then he called him 300 pounds of livid flesh <laugh>. I don’t know.
[Resumes reading] A brief digression. I wonder who Bob was. By the way, the guy with the brown wide-brimmed hat and the leather jacket is from Britain. Charming accent.
That’s what I wrote on whatever date this was. Hang on. Oh, here it is.
March 4th, 2003. Yeah, that was about, that was about a little over a year before I had ended up having a stroke. I had no idea at the time that I was going to end up having a stroke and developing dystonia. So look what happens when you least expect it.
And it’s funny, I wrote this all down, just while I’m sitting there at a gate waiting for a plane. This should tell you something about writing. Number one, observe people and what they wear. I mean, now it’s like I do screenwriting and it’s always about what they’re wearing, how they’re standing, little things. So notice the little things. Take note of them. That’s one of the best pieces of advice I could give to any writer. I mean, if you’re a writer in a way, I don’t have to tell you that maybe. It should seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me, I guess, because I keep saying, I don’t know anything about these people.
Well, really, I don’t know anything about these people. What I know is they’re outward appearance. Maybe that’s something too. Maybe knowing even what people look like and thinking about what they might be otherwise, what might be beneath the surface is what writing is all about. I don’t know. I’m as dumb about this as the next person who writes. We are all really, all apprentices, always, we are always working toward getting better at it.
So start with just a plain old notebook, and I have so many of them. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I’ve got notes and notes and notes. I could boil ’em all down into little guides and share them. Maybe I will do that. I don’t know. I’m, I’m always trying to pick and choose what I do these days, because time is of the essence. I’m not getting younger, and that’s the truth. Anyway, I’ll talk to you later.