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Creative Compulsive Disorder and the Poet’s Journal
Mary Ruefle quotes Alan Bean (an astronaut from Apollo 12 who paints pictures of the moon) in her essay Poetry and the Moon, saying “Certainly riding a rocket to the moon is the biggest kick you can have, but when I paint I get the same feeling that I got when I flew in space well. Certainly the view isn’t as good, but the best part of life is internal.”
With poets there is an undeniable feeling (is it something between joy and compulsiveness cloaking anxiety?) in the internal life. The internal life as it reflects the external–even the professional–life. And I’m talking now about journaling.
Journaling has always been a compulsion of mine. It’s genetic; my mom has it bad. In fact, I’ve never quite seen anyone journal like my mother, Abigail. It’s incredible to have grown up watching her process. She has hundreds of journals, including this one gigantic journal that’s definitely mystical. It looks like a spell book that never leaves the citadel. It’s the size of an ottoman and has a huge pentacle on the handmade leather cover. She’s been working at it for over five years, and it’s just about full. It kind of puts my journaling to shame.
On the other side of the spectrum, here’s one of my tiny ones from childhood:
Did you know there’s actually something called CREATIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER? Let’s hope to God to they don’t find a cure beyond allowing us to function outside of our houses every so often.
And let’s not forget Hypergraphia, an overwhelming urge to write. It is not itself a disorder, but can be associated with temporal lobe changes in epilepsy and hypomania and mania in the context of bipolar disorder.
I wrote the first draft of this post the on subway in a journal.
Although I grew up on Anne Frank (all those amazing, vibrant diary entries that filled me with yearning for her smooth, articulate, young prose—) that wasn’t anything like what I did in my journal. My instinct was to sprawl; to draw, diary/bitch, poem, take notes, and scrapbook. Like mom, I prefer large unlined perfect-bound, while my sister prefers spiral unlined, so it can lay flat. Sharon Olds prefers spiral lined, wide ruled. I remember my friend the poet M.A. Vizsolyi used to write his poems in a tiny note book that fit in his pocket. My fiancé, Ben Pease, writes a lot of his poems in a Lego moleskin, or on his phone. Ruth Stone wrote almost EXCLUSIVELY in Mede Composition notebooks with Bic pens. Or what about Robert Walser and his incredible Microscripts? We all have our thing. And I find it fascinating.
But also sad because
Since my iPhone and everything else, I’ve been journaling so much less. I never used to leave the house without my journal—which was heavy as a bible in my bag. Right now I have three going at once. I’m not as picky anymore. Not as hardcore with the ONE JOURNAL. I even have one on the computer with pasted-in links to things.
But I want to pay homage to the art of journaling. Which will never end. And so I’ve taken some photos of some of my ones from the past four years. All shapes and sizes.
Here’s to the internal world–and our trying to document and understand the external–all laid out in a journal.