A transformation occurs in works that you, the writer, wrote more than a month ago. Going back and reading them is a lot like opening up the Necronomicon. You approach them with a sense of both awe and dread. You know that you might be enthralled, or glimpse truths that live deeper than the normal range of human understanding, or perhaps have your mind fractured into a billion gibbering shards of insanity.
This applies to anyone who writes – bloggers and fan fic writers and whathaveyou in addition to aspiring novelists who are sufficiently magnanimous and desperate for praise that to share their work online. When I go back and read my old work, I never know what my reaction will be. Occasionally I find it so magnificent that I have to sit back, light a cigarette, and spend a few minutes drinking in the rarefied and tobacco-scented air of my own ineffable genius. Then I cough horribly, because I don’t smoke. And then I wonder where the hell I got the cigarettes. This has happened more than once.
Other times what I read is so puerile and juvenile that all I can do is cringe, and I don’t stop cringing for three days, leaving me with horrific stomach cramps that only Camel Lights can cure.
More often than not, what I read of my old writing isn’t even an actual story or blog most. Mostly it involves entries in Writing.doc, my massive write-whatever-I-want writing journal. Since I write in there when I am not specifically working on something else, flipping back through it is a natural way to put off actually putting words down on the screen. After all, the file is already open.
And there is a lot of decent writing in there. Hundreds of article and story ideas. Quite a few full stories, some of which have been posted on this blog. That would be a good place for a link, but I can’t remember which ones and don’t feel like slogging through the 180,000 words in the writing journal to find out.
On the other hand, I’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about the fact that my ass itches. And probably tens of thousands of the 180,000 words I just words are my bitching about how I’m not writing, or don’t want to write, or can’t think of anything to write about. I console myself with the fact that Leonardo da Vinci repeated himself a lot in his journal, too.
Like all egotistical, self obsessed creative types (i.e. all writers), I assume this writing journal serves not only as a way to give forward momentum to my writing, but also as a record that will one day be studied by others in an attempt to witness and understand my blooming talent.
I haven’t written in this journal for nearly two months. I wrote a lot during those months, but it was almost all on the withering man. Now that the novel is written, I find myself running back to my journal like an old friend I can always hang out with when my cooler friends are on vacation. I can write in it when I don’t have anything else to write. It keeps me going, and it never judges me.
Except now even the most recent entries are two months old. During my time away, the whole document has twisted into an eldritch, worm riddled tome. It is all by turns dreadful and fascinating. It forces me to accept that I am sometimes inspired, sometimes utterly possessed by terrible ideas that feel brilliant from the inside, and sometimes horrifically boring.
It makes me think that maybe it’s time to retire the writing journal, and start a new one. That way, maybe I won’t read it for a year. Or two years. Once the time is passed, I can come back and dig through the remains of the person I used to be.
Hopefully, by then, medicated cream will be less expensive.