February 17, 2009

A Writer's Journals
Alice Folkart

I have literally cases of journals packed up and ready to go with me to the Bardo or wherever after I die. For anyone unfamiliar with Buddhism, the Bardo is sort of like Limbo or Purgatory. I don't really concern myself whether what's in the journals is good or bad.

Nor do I care what embarrassing entries anyone finds in them after I'm gone. I'll be dead, so what would it matter? I moved to Hawaii a year ago and my new friends tell me that books and papers become moldy and fall apart here. At 68, I'll perhaps live another ten years or so. By that time the journals probably won't be readable anyway.

I dipped into my journals when I unpacked, trying to decide whether to put them in bookcases or leave them in boxes. I was appalled at the writing—the whining, the anger, the dullness, and the self-centeredness of it all. But then I remembered that the journals were first of all therapeutic.

I've had a hard life as a single mother, working many jobs to put myself through school, life always in crisis, threatening to spin out of control. And that's what I wrote about. But the point is...Ta Da!...it kept me writing. I didn't consider myself a writer, but year by year by year, I became more conscious of how I put things on paper. I began to separate my need for therapy from my need to create. In short, I began writing.

Someone introduced me to The Artist's Way. I didn't have the time or money to attend any of the groups so popular then, but I read the book and followed the steps. One said to write every morning before being fully awake and let the unconscious and subconscious have their best chance to reveal themselves. So, being more than a little obsessive—how else could I have survived?—I wrote every morning for half an hour, no matter what. Those pages are the most interesting. They are about the interior me—creative, surprising, exciting.

I don't go back to my journals for material. It's all still in my head, a great treasure trove. But I do cherish one from 1972 and keep it close, like an intimate friend, because of a special entry.

One night I came home from work so enraged that I just had to write. I started with a benign accounting of the day, but soon got around to my evil boss. I detailed the many humiliations he subjected me to, the faults he found, the pain he inflicted that left me feeling powerless. The pen flew as I spilled my anger onto the page.

The writing stopped where the pen ripped a hole in the paper. Then there were furious scritches and scratches back and forth, ending in an inky jumble, blurred with what must have been tears.

It's one of the best things I ever wrote.


Alice Folkart writes on the island of Oahu, where she lives beside the sea with her musician husband and her intellectual cat. Her work has been seen in a number of on-line literary journals, and she is a co-administrator on several writing websites.

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