I've kept journals ever since the age of 12. I'm now a few years older than twelve, and I now have about 300 college-ruled 100-sheet notebooks of journals. I've saved most of them, though I'm sure I lost a few here and there. I keep the journals in two stacks of three boxes each, hidden away in a closet we rarely use.
Well, I had to find some old journals the other day. I was working on Chapter 1 of "GM" and needed some notes I had taken from a particular time in my life--early 2001, to be precise. I didn't know which boxes they were in; when we moved to western North Carolina, I just dumped all of the journals into the boxes, and we never opened the boxes again. We just put them into the closet, behind some Christmas things and a few other boxes.
Dodger helped me get the boxes out of the closet the other day, and we both went through them all, looking for journals from early 2001. We finally found them--six altogether.
It was interesting, looking through some of those old notebooks from the 80s and 90s. I didn't actually sit and read them--or I'd still be sitting there now, three days later--but I did glance at the covers and flip through a few. I couldn't believe how many novels-in-progress I'd kept. How many character studies I'd written. How many scenes and settings I'd drawn with words. Just for fun.
I have entire notebooks full of something I called SSEs--Short Story Excerpts--from when I was fourteen and fifteen. SSEs are kind of like sketches, most of them two or three pages each, on which I imagined I'd build short stories (or maybe novels) someday.
I also have a 625-page (handwritten) novel and a 152-page (typed) novel. I wrote the 152-page novel by hand in the eighth grade, then in the summer before ninth grade, I typed two additional draft-revisions on an electric typewriter. If you wanted to find me on a Saturday morning in the summer of 1985, you'd have to go to my dad's office, where I would be sitting at the receptionist's typewriter, working away on my novel.
I also have a lot of bad poems, I mean, really bad poems in those notebooks. And numerous outlines--detailed outlines, some of them--for stories and novels. Of course, they're only outlines ... I never wrote the actual stories.
What does this little collection of creative writing tell me?
For one thing, I've been playing "Let's Pretend" on paper for a very long time. For another, my creative spirit has spent too many years in hiding.
Something BIG happened yesterday--not in the great scheme of things (that I'm aware of), but in my myopic little creative life. I submitted for critique the first chapter of my first manuscript for my first fiction-writing workshop ever. Never have I done anything like this before. Never have I had the nerve to even take a writing workshop. Never have I had the courage to face criticism of my writing--not necessarily because I feared the criticism would be scathingly bad or anything, but because I just feel very ... exposed ... whenever I let anyone else read my fiction. Which is why it's accumulated in a closet for the last twenty years.
So. I've sent Chapter 1 out to the folks in my workshop. I re-read it this morning and (of course) found several typos, but nothing too distracting. Workshop is Wednesday evening.
I'm trying not to think about it.