Monday, January 29, 2007

Dear reader

My son, it turns out, discovered this blog and has visited it from time to time. He was left scratching his head about the question of audience.

Do I imagine an audience? Is this really public discourse? Not sure I have a good answer for a good question. Certainly what I have been writing is personal, random, modest, no obvious thread of continuity. I’ve been happy to think I have no readers. Though the gesture to publish rather than leave this on my desktop must be significant. Why have I been doing this?

Mostly the gesture comes from a lifetime of journal writing. I’m tired, bored, disgusted with what I have made of the journal. I have some random scribblings that go back to grade school. But I have journals, not daily, but consistent, since I went off to college. I have boxes of these things. And mostly I find it difficult to read them. I write when I’m frustrated. I use these journals as personal therapy. So they are full, mostly of the miseries of my life. Daily miseries are repetitious--and boring. For the most part, I don’t particularly like the person who emerges in these journals.

And I’ve had a fair amount of experience with journals. I have worked as a historian for significant periods in my life. In particular I spent a huge stretch of my middle life working daily on an amazing journal--that of Wilford Woodruff, which begins in the 1830s and continues into the 1890s. He was dedicated enough in his journaling that if he didn’t write he accounted for his lapses when he returned. On more than one occasion he wrote of his own illnesses, stopping only when he lapsed into unconsciousness. That happened with his final illness. He details this illness until days before his death.

I started by indexing the nine volumes of Wilford’s journals that had already been published. And then I excerpted from the 900 plus pages to create a one-volume version, published as “Waiting for World’s End.” This was rarely an introspective journal but always a descriptive one. And that description makes it core in plotting the story of Mormonism in its first century and the story of Utah in its first decades as well. A journal to come to again and again. It stands up.

I’ve always been entranced by those literary journals, where great writers captured glowing words that found their way into poems and novels. But that’s not what I wrote. For the most part, I fear, my journal deserves a fire, not a reader.

I realize that mostly I’ve found myself exhausted by my own journal. So this blog began as an attempt to bring discipline to my personal writing--or more precisely my writing about the personal. I would be embarrassed to publish my journal. This exercise forces me to reflect on my experience, shape it a bit.

So perhaps, I’m mostly still the reader. But I want to find a way to find some pleasure myself in what I write. Maybe that will help me find a public voice and even confidence to search more aggressively for a dear reader.


frog said...

I long to write in my own journal but my hand is always drawn elsewhere it seems. There are a couple of points in my life where I have been consistant. Recently I revisited a volume I'd written about 13 years ago! "Idiot Girl" is, of course, the perfect name. This blog sounds like you. That's a good thing. Knowing the frequency with which I explore cyberspace your secret is safe with me. I might visit again sometime if its ok.

SusanS said...