Friday, July 18, 2008

Can I Call It A 'Diary'?

Journals are unstructured. I've been writing mostly journal stuff for almost 20 years. (Gulp.) A diary is strictly about what has happened and one's reflections about the events. I have zero interest in blogging, but I need a diary. I'm sure they are basically the same, but in my head the syntax counts.

Again, I start anew.

I want to reprint something I may have shared online a few years ago. If I'm not mistaken, I wrote it in early 2006, just before I started a book project. I finished that book. It was a C+ product, with an A- effort. I enjoyed the process and I needed something to cling to after radically changing my humdrum life from East to West Coast.

Now, I'm hip deep in another novel. I'm now allowed to discuss it because I'm over 20,000 words in. It is a rule I created to keep me from shooting myself in the foot. Announcing projects and dreams and wishes is bad news for me. I always abandon them when they escape my brain and become part of the universe. I realized quickly that I had to have both feet in the water, or both oars, or whatever marine metaphor you can think of; before any discussion of the book can occur.

Of course I can't even describe the plot yet, which is lame, I know. But I can guarantee it is fun and filled with action. Good for now.

My latest editing problem is explaining versus storytelling. Storytelling is the end result of proper fiction writing. Characterization, style, unique plotting…all the good fixin's. Explaining is what I do when I can't slow down. Lots of two-page James Patterson chapters and glossing over major shifts in plotline. Crap fiction.

My mantra is now: Slow Down. As desperate as I am to be published and enter the writing world in some capacity, I have to slow down. Everything begins with a wonderfully crafted piece of art. At least that's how I want it to begin.

Here's that thing I wrote:

(Feb 2006)

Oh well, I think I’ve had enough of the throat clearing and we are all ready for this writing shit to take us somewhere. Even if it doesn’t make a dime, I can use it to make me feel better about being alive. But I hope it makes money. Sorry.

Personally, I don’t have a “no recap” rule, so I want to go back and see what I have.

When I was 12 I wrote a 3 page story about time travel. It was pretty dumb. I tried unsuccessfully to write anything better than that until I was in high school.

Since eleventh grade, and “The Catcher in the Rye”, I have roughly 10 notebooks and maybe 100-150 loose pages worth of journal/diary entry stuff written. About 80% complaining and wishing for things, 10% reporting my personal news and 10% ideas for projects n’ stuff. Maybe 3 novels worth of writing, though. I wrote my life story when I was 18, at least all the stuff I wanted to remember, in 25 pages. It was a process.

In college, I wrote dozens of essays for classes I took for the specific reason of writing, and maybe 8 short stories and 20 or so poems. Of that group, 5 to 7 were in good shape. I attempted more than one ‘non-fiction, fun, Jim looks at the world, comedy essay’ book, which culminated first in “Why Not Me?”, and the much more personal and well-done “Fifteen Years and Ten Square Miles”. I might like that book the best of all.

I tinkered with yet another tale of a young man who wanted to leave Florida in a film script in 2001 called “Monday Through Friday”. A script that is a B+, and could be made into an A. The toughest challenge and the biggest deal was the full-length novel, “Palm Breeze Diary”. It was finished, at least the first draft in the fall of 2004. Amy still thinks that one should be my springboard into a writing career, but the more I read it, the less I think that is true. It was an attempt to write that long about one set of characters and I did it. It can be rewritten, and it has to be before it can be shown.

Within the last 17 years, I’ve had 20 or 30 false story starts, with a blog in there and a website and a bunch of comedy sketches I wrote for 6 months while performing, and essays that never made it in the nonfiction books, stories about fathers and brothers and time travel and a whole bunch of shit I’ve forgotten. I didn’t mention the kid’s journals, one for each, and now a group effort, and the writing journals and the letters and emails to friends, some long winded and inquiring information for entertainment. There’s a little over 100 poems I wrote for Amy while we dated and maybe 100 lyrics for songs that never saw the light of day. (Well, a few came though during the Chet years.)

Absolutely none of this is padded. All of this is as true as I can make it, and to be honest, I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of material. There are 3 or 4 notebooks tucked away somewhere chock full of comedy material that I collected since I was 16. Lists, silly words, bits and full length rants included.

Okay, here’s the rub. Of this bulk of material, of all this pouring out of my heart and soul and frustration and screaming into the abyss, maybe 15% has been read by anyone at all. And of the books and the script, only 5 or 6 people have ever read them. That is also as true as I can make it.

Today, at this moment, right now, I don’t know how to change that. I don’t have a solid plan or two to get some future work looked at or published. But, what I do know is all the old versions of me, hidden in a corner in the library at UCF, in front of a white screen in my underwear at home, and all alone as a teenager, would be quite sad to see me now. 33 and out of Florida with no book prospects or even some stories of “almost” and “maybe next time”. This is what I have to remember. Just like I remember my kids during work or paying the bills. Just like keeping my health in mind when I pass a fast food place. I have to remember that something about writing makes me happy and I’ve been doing it in some form for half of my life. I can’t give up, no matter how hopeless it may seem at times.

1 comment:

  1. yeah you think everything hemingway ever wrote was pure gold? it's all practice---life, I mean. just keep plugging along.