Lexicographical Interventions: On journal writing

It seems to me that there only two valid motivations when one writes something in his journal (excuse, by the way, the gender insensitive use of his instead of his/her; in any case it is of no pertinent matter): first, the matter to be written makes sense to the writer, not necessarily in a holistic and enlightened fashion, nevertheless the matter is palatable, a recognizable speck within the writer’s imaginative horizon; or, second, the matter is so trivial and lacking of significance that its writing only functions in the same spirit as a guard writing his nightly report in the logbook. In both cases, journal writing remains as an act of recollection, of meditation on the fleeting details of day-to-day existence, as if to comprehensively wrap up the day, asking ‘What’s the moral lesson of today’s story?’, as if to encircle the square, to hit ‘do re mi fa so’ then ‘do ti la so fa’, and so on; in a single breathe, to make sense out of the day.

So it comes to me, as if an incapacitating curse, that journal writing is a very difficult, if not Herculean (this is an understatement, not an exaggeration, mind you) activity. Reprimand me quick, but journal writing seems to be almost inconceivable when one is deprived of the privilege to make sense of his being. Or, to put it in less pretentious terms, to write in times of disorienting chaos is to drink the Pacific with a straw.

This brings me to the recall a time when my journal was left virtually untouched, left rotting in the table, the miserable thing sustaining a nasty coffee spill on its last pages.  As if to mock me, the journal became mute in a time when the writer is shouting, thrashing, crying with emotion, of multiple crises and distortions. While the writer is maniacally speaking to himself, or to his pillow, or to his bottle of gin, bursting with words and words and words, the journal is silent, stinking, adamantine. It comes as no amazement that insects like Poe or Dostoevsky claim to write better when they are drunk, when reality is a mere flash of light from a far distance, in a deserted, unpaved road, rain pouring down like tiny pebbles.

Further, isn’t writing a crime? A felicitous game made by vain glorious men and women, flaunting not so much their remarkable writing skills but their very privilege to write. When I write about murder, I am speaking not as a victim of murder (or else I will not be able to give this ridiculous speech) or a murderer, but as a mere witness of the act. When I write about revolution, I am not speaking as an impaled victim of injustice or as an obsequious follower of a higher command, but as a mere dreamer.

So when I print with ink a whole piece of my life in a journal, I am hence making it fiction, making it comprehensible, graspable, and not strange (for truth is stranger than fiction, so they say). But when my fingers are scalded by some chaotic, uncanny force of reality, or to say, ‘immobilized’, I am fully aware of this reality, immersed in it, drenched in it, a living organism; mute, but living; unfree, but  conscious.

The tragedy in writing is this: my liberty comes from my lack of knowledge.

Image from A Literary Oddysey
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5 thoughts on “Lexicographical Interventions: On journal writing”

    1. Blogging, for me, shares the intimacy of journal writing, but it has an inexorable public dimension. I write not only what I wanted to write, but also what my readers wanted me write, or, what image I want my readers to make of me or my writing. Vain as it may, what I write in here is not a perfect reflection of my thoughts, but an impure articulation of my vain side, hehe..

      btw, thanks for dropping by! Very much appreciated.

  1. Joan Didion said that writing is an imposition – no matter how smooth, how mannered, how slight (mere hint or suggestion). For me, one of its difficulties is in choosing what to put in, what to exclude. That in itself constitutes bias, a demarcation of what is worthy to be mentioned – what or who makes the cut, gets to be included in the story.

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