On Friday 13th, on my first plane trip of the New Year, I returned to the art of hand writing, journaling by hand in my green-bound journal. I stopped using the green leather covers years ago; Levenger had ceased making refill pads for them and though I found substitute journals, they did not fit the covers. At Christmas, my wife gave me a set of filler pads that fit. Chastened by customer protests, Levenger had returned to making them, though the covers are now midnight blue instead of buff. The pages are sewn in, numbered, archival quality and (naturally) gilt-edged.
Though it is often a challenge for me
to decipher my writing, even on the same day, I realize there are essential
reasons for me to return to the practice of writing by hand. The medium is the
message, and the tactile, sensory contact with this medium can bring unexpected
results. There is the release (more complete than via the keyboard) from any
concern about judgment or consequences. There is my tendency, when writing a
journal, to include sketches. And then there is a big dream, from some time
last year, in which I am writing a new book, quite different from any of the
two dozen I have published so far, within the green covers of my journal. As I
form words on the page, I have the shiverish sensation that I am starting to
manifest the dream of fresh literary creation.
The first pages of the new journal contain notes from the road, on the synchronicities and symbolic pop-ups that seem to multiply when we are in motion, and on my current reading, which includes (for the second time) Olga Grushin's extraordinary novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov, which describes the revenge of the imagination on an artist who gave up his creative vision to live the privileged life of a Soviet apparatchik. My rowmates, on the second flight of the day, from Minneapolis to Tucson, contributed more material. They were both reading classic lit - (he) Lucretius On the Nature of Things and (she) Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe - so conversation was irresistible. Soon we were talking about different modes of writing.
Ann, who was sitting next to me, got me talking about my sense that the book that may be hatched from inside the green covers will be different from anything I have published before. "I will write from what I have lived, and what I know," I declared. "I will write about my travels in the dream worlds, and among those who are living on the other side of death. I shall write from the truth of experience, and study, but this time I'll offer it as fiction or narrative nonfiction, inviting readers into a universe they can share for a time without needing to ask, Is it true?"
Ann responded, "It's better to write a work of nonfiction and call it fiction than to write a work of fiction and call it nonfiction."
That was exactly what I needed to hear. Yes, I wrote it down carefully in the journal with the green covers, and drew a big balloon around it.