Between the Covers

This post title may mislead. Apologies or rest assured, whichever suits.

A few comments from friends expressed amazement from my last post that (a) I’ve kept journals for so long; and that (b) the writing must be profound.

With the exception of the very first journal entry, inked in the undergraduate library at UNC-Chapel Hill, I’ve not gone through my journals to read entries. I keep them because I think that one day I might.

Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. “Maybe:” I like this word.

(An aside: one summer, living in a rental house in a tourist destination with a band of waiters eager for meager tips, the landlord hired a painter to slap down two layers on the interior walls. After a couple weeks of inhaling the sweet-noxious smell of wet paint, we began to ask if the painter would be done “soon.” His answer, always the same: “Yes, maybe no.”* So far as I know, that man is still painting the house.)

Without re-reading my journals, I know what flows between the covers: pledges to write more, exercise more, eat and drink less, take a positive outlook on the day. In other words, entries designed to soothe my restless self (selves). Plus, there’s proof that whatever talent I may possess does not include writing poetry or song lyrics.

Say those entries equal 80-plus percent of the output. What makes up the other 20 percent?

Ideas for essays or short stories or characters, anecdotes, conversations overhead, events that struck me as serendipitous or synchronicity at work. For ease of reference, when I sensed I was moving beyond self-soothing drivel, I would circle a letter beside the entry — “I” for idea, “F” for fiction, “TD” for to do, etc. — thinking I would come back soon to follow the threads.

“Soon” has passed, unless the concept is measured against tectonic plate movement or the date(s) of the Rapture, as predicted by evangelical preachers in Texas.

My point? Those stacks of 25+ years of journals aren’t full of writing with a capital ‘W.’ They’re just full of writing. Should there be a bus barreling toward me today with my name on the grille, will all that writing be worthwhile?

Yes. Maybe no.

So, to my incoming students: write anyway, just in case the answer is “Yes.”

*I later learned the painter’s phrase originated from a movie, the name of which I’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s recorded somewhere in one of my journals. Or not.

About Malcolm W Campbell

Father. Husband. Writer. Teacher. Outdoorsperson. And something else... Forgetful?
This entry was posted in Absurd, Philosophical, Questions, Teaching, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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