The Writer’s Journal by J. Busskohl

journalI go through phases where my creativity is like a full bottle of Diet Coke with a Mentos dropped inside; ideas are literally spewing from me. Then I go through phases where there is nothing but creative silence; my mind feels empty and dark and still. There’s no rhyme or reason to either of these times, at least none that I can tell, none that I’ve noticed, none that I can put my finger on. I’ve tried to pay attention during the quiet times. Why is nothing coming to me now? Why is my mind a blank? Why is no little voice whispering crazy thoughts to my muse, who in turn shouts them at me? Generally nothing comes to me during these times. I am, quite literally, a void. Still, for the longest time, I would carry my journal. Waiting. Keeping it handy just in case.

Until I didn’t keep it handy any more.

A few years ago, I put it in a drawer and let it sit there. I’ve always loved my journal. The paper in it is thick –  the kind of parchment that a regular ballpoint pen has a hard time floating across. If you ever met my journal, you’d be impressed. It looks very self important. It’s well built, rugged, a little lined in places, but still really good looking. It has the ability to look happy and content or dark and brooding. Don’t make it mad. Don’t ask my why, just trust me.

Yet, even with all these amazing attributes, it stayed hidden during what I like to call the “dry years.” To borrow a terribly cliche college break up phrase, we still loved each other, but we weren’t “in love.” Back then, if I had an idea I typed it into my phone where it could stare back at me in unfeeling Times New Roman font – black and white and ever so uninspiring. Of course I wasn’t writing much of anything, so even the chaste thoughts I threw into my phone showed all the blandness of a text to my mother.

Buy toilet paper.

Do moths get headaches?

Is string theory really real, or just a conspiracy thought up by physicists? Can they be trusted?

Book idea: What if a woman who forgets to shave her legs gets in an accident and meets the love of her life in the ambulance? She’s worried about her legs and the driver is trying to save her life. Could be a Harlequin best seller!

As you can see, especially by that last bit, I was at a low point. I console myself by believing we all have those dry times, thanks to the “excuse” of being uninspired. And no matter how valid that excuse may be, or what may be going on in my life to make it so, over the last couple of years I’ve come to discover that it really is just an excuse and that it doesn’t serve much purpose other than keeping my journal and, in turn, my laptop empty.

So a few months ago, I took a step.

I started carrying my journal with me – everywhere.  I took it to work, letting it sit beside me on my desk as I examined patients, ordered meds, read lab results. It rode with me in my car. It sat beside me when I watched TV. It became the last thing I set on my nightstand when I turned off my light at night. If I had a thought, no matter how small it felt, how uninspiring, I wrote it down.

After a few days, something amazing happened. My journal began to talk back. It rewarded my attention with attention of its own. I’ve got something to say, so listen up.

And so I would open the book, stare at those thick pages, and I would write . . . until my hand ached with the burden and I decided that maybe, just maybe, inspiration was something too painful to pursue. It’s not the journal’s fault, I told myself. It’s just got really thick pages. And the pages in the refills are thick too. And expensive. What good is having a journal if it is useless? It’s not holding up its end of the relationship. I’m putting in all this effort and getting nothing in return. Maybe I should move on, see other journals. Maybe I should completely end the relationship with my beautiful leather bound journal which was a gift from my husband and that I love a whole lot so that I don’t have hand pain and can write faster when I’m having these floods of thoughts that are once again like Mentos in Diet Coke and that I’m so thankful for and that look so meaningful when they are written in ink and by my hand and I feel so connected to them.

Sigh. I know. I have issues.

Relationships, especially long term ones, are difficult. It’s a refillable journal after all. And I love it. And despite the considerations I’ve eluded to above, I’ve been faithful to it. If I didn’t take it to bed with me and write in it, I give you my solemn word I wasn’t taking any other journals to bed and writing in them either. Not that I didn’t look. Or consider experimentation. I’m only a human writer after all. And I have needs.

It became abundantly clear we needed outside help. Our relationship was hanging in the balance and I found myself standing at the precipice of creative infidelity. Oh sure, you say, that would probably stoke those creative fires. New pages, crisp and white, previously untouched, just imagine the possibilities. But I’m a realist . . . and a monogamous one. I found the thought of a new journal to be something akin to a wet blanket. Creativity borne of guilt is just diary writing. And who wants that? (Hello? I was considering writing for Harlequin, and that was just from typing ideas into my phone. I love a good romance as much as the next girl, but come on . . .)

I had tried to make it work, but carpal tunnel was destroying me. Could the relationship be saved?

***I’m just going to take a time out here, because I know you are sitting there, one eyebrow arched beatifically into your hairline, your lips pursed and twisted just a little. Who is this crazy woman, you ask yourself . . . what is this unhealthy attachment she has to her journal? What a weirdo!

Give me a break. If you are a writer, look around you. Somewhere, in your house, at your office, in the linty bowels of your bag or purse or whatever the hell you carry around, SOMEWHERE, there is something you depend upon to inspire you. Maybe it’s a coffee cup, maybe a chair, maybe an episode of Columbo or Perryt Mason that you run in the background. Maybe it’s a pair of socks or that pair of unwashed underwear you don’t want anyone to know about, you sick bastard. But there’s something, something that you need, that gets you by . . . something that trading in for something different isn’t possible.

So climb off my back and let me finish my story.

Where was I?

At last, after careful consideration, I bought a fountain pen.

Don’t get excited. It’s not a Mont Blanc or anything overly extravagant. It’s just a pen. But it’s mine and it’s refillable. It’s got those cartridges that snap into place after they are punctured by this little thingy close to the nib. Plus, the cartridges come in this box that looks like something from a 1950’s Ben Franklin store.

Yeah. It’s cool.

It digs into parchment with purpose, caressing those erogenous zones in my journal until our muse moans with pleasure. I write unencumbered and uninhibited, like I was meant to. It’s as freeing as a breath mint commercial, or that one shampoo commercial (I know you know what I mean.)

From now on and foreveremore, when you read these virtual words, flung up on this white background, you can smile that secret smile you have, because you realize they were first scrawled feverishly, lovingly, in my journal (thanks to the healthy ménage a trois we share with my new pen).

Now, if you will excuse us, we’d like to be alone. Please close the door on your way out.

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