Friday, March 6, 2009

On writing

I told my writerly and readerly housemate Andrew the other day that I had been writing in my journal a lot this week instead of working on my novel. He said, `Yeah, but it's still writing, isn't it?' And I guess it is. Anything that flexes the writing muscles on a daily basis has to be a good thing, right? Except, if I think of myself as a writer, I conceive of myself as more of an ancient, clunky, rusty metal machine that badly needs an oil change and service. Not a smooth Olympic athlete at all.

Sometimes I feel a writing impulse and don't quite know where to direct it. It used to be, do I work on a short story, or my novel? Do I compose a lovely eloquent email to an overseas friend? Now I seem to be adding outlets; I've started this blog (which may or may not go anywhere) and I've started writing in my journal again.

I have kept some of my journals over the years, and turfed others. My teenage diaries were so angst-ridden and heartfelt that I couldn't bear for them to even be sitting silently in a box in my bedroom. So I threw them out. Now of course I regret it deeply. Unfortunately my journal writing mostly seems to happen at crisis times, not happy times, giving a slightly skewed version of my past.

I am fascinated with one story about my childhood home. For the first ten years of my life I lived in a lovely old rambling house in Box Hill. The house was full of dark nooks and crannies; it had an attic leading down to a steep staircase that my sisters and I liked to surf down on cushions. It was a very mysterious house full of secrets and stories and hiding places.

Years after we moved out my dad told me this story. The man who lived in the house prior to us disappeared under strange circumstances. Apparently this man had accidentally hit a young boy with his car and killed him. Understandably he didn't seem to be able to get over this incident. He retreated to his house in the mountains (I seem to remember winter and snow as part of the details here), and was never heard of again, despite extensive searches. When my family moved into the house my dad found a small diary pushed high up in one of the chimneys. My dad kept the diary and pulled it out and showed me. It was small and had a black cover. The man had only written in the diary for two weeks, and once I read the diary I understood that this man had written the diary in maybe the worst two weeks of his life. I could also tell from the handwriting, and the man's grammar and spelling that he was not a writing man, that he rarely wrote anything down, let alone his feelings. Strangely, the diary entries weren't about the young boy and the accident. They were about his wife and his daughter.

I'm going to finish now. The dog is yelping quietly in her sleep.

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