In”On Keeping a Notebook” Joan Didion asks, “Why did I write it down?,” which strikes me as the most poignant and central question behind all writing, particularly when put to the practice of journal keeping.
When I started to freelance, I slowly stopped jotting things down. I used to look at the first page of my current composition book and the date would be more recent than a year ago. I used to be sure I had a Moleskine notebook in my purse.
Maybe I got out of the habit because I’m more satisfied now that I have time to produce words. My kids are older. I’m no longer scratching at the bits, trying to create uninterrupted time.
I’d like to take up the notebook again, in part because I don’t want all my words to be connected to one platform or another. In terms of privacy, whatever we write online lives forever but from a personal standpoint, nothing could be more lost than a favorite quote of my son’s that I’ve shared on Facebook. How to find it again without scrolling through years of shared Upworthy videos and queries about household appliances? Even if there is a way to search the vast databases I’m creating, I want some words that are mine.
There’s something about writing for no one. If I lost a notebook and someone read it, or if a family member found and cracked it open, that would be a breach of confidence and the reader would know it. In a publication or on social media, writing is meant to be consumed. I’d like to get back to writing “something private” and recording “bits of the mind’s string too short to use.” Didion is talking about the rich, useless assembly of observations that, though she argues that they always point back to the “implacable ‘I’,” are compost for the interior life.
Here is my offering: I took these photos in the back yard this morning. After a week or so of temperatures in the teens, it is above freezing again and our pond out back is thawing. It’s what I’ll write about in my notebook tonight. Consider it a visual prompt and join me if you need to get back to the notebook, too.