|why did I find this appealing?|
*to be and to write
There was a time when getting me to write — at all — was like pulling teeth. Seriously. In the dusty recesses of my memory are recollections of a period when my mother resorted to talking to me with a Raggedy Ann puppet in order to make short writing projects palatable (for obvious reasons I remained dubious).
When I was six, I received my first diary. I still have it stored away in a box in Michigan. The first entry begins: “To dae I stayed in bed to late…” and then describes how I walked to the library and what I did there. A few entries later my little sister is born. “We have a new baby,” I report. “She poops in the bathtub.” There are illustrations. This less than auspicious beginning led to what would eventually become a nearly twenty-five year habit, thought entries remained erratic and highly uninformative until I hit adolescence, at which point journaling became a multi-layered activity: one part journalism, one part self-reflection, one part fiction, always with a high level of adolescent drama.
There are probably several posts worth of story I could tell about my evolving relationship with the written word during the seven years I was in college and the four years I spent in graduate school. College was what turned me on to the power of nonfiction writing, specifically creative nonfiction and research papers. Given my habits as a diarist and my fondness for epistolary writing, it’s not a big surprise to me, looking back, that I took to personal essays with boundless enthusiasm. I also grew to love — though not without tears! — the way in which research and analysis helped me to organize my often chaotic thought process in a way that people outside my own head not only seemed to (wonder of wonders!) understand but also to appreciate.
Journaling, correspondence, fanfiction, memoir, blogging, email, academic research and writing — all of these are ways through which I connect to ideas and the trans-historical, geographically disparate set of people who think and discuss them. Journaling was what I did when I was living a largely solitary life; now I have someone to share life with, discuss ideas and events with (except when she cries “enough!” which she occasionally does). Between blogging (and comment threads), email, and a primary relationship it’s simply difficult to find the time or the motivation to replicate my thoughts in a private space where no one else will read them.*
Perhaps the title of this post should be, more accurately, de s’entretenir et d’être (to converse and to be).
*Story: A few years ago a researcher at the MHS practically had a heart attack from joy when she saw me writing in my journal at the front desk. She pleaded with me to ensure that my diaries would someday reside in an archive where they might be accessible to future generations of researchers like herself. I didn’t mention to her how many volumes there were, but I do actually intend to donate my extant diaries and correspondence to an archive somewhere, someday. As a researcher who depends on those types of “everyday” sources for my own work I figure I owe it to my successors!