I’ve been keeping journals since I was about eight or nine years old. When I was younger, through my teenage years, I was fairly consistent in starting a journal, writing in it until it was full and then moving onto the next set of empty pages. However, especially as I got older and my writing became a bit more focused and I started to mine it for poems, I started to keep better track of these little books full of scribbling. I didn’t seem to have trouble hanging onto them until fairly recently.
I wouldn’t say I’m a forgetful person and I don’t think I really fall into the “scatterbrain” category either. I’m relatively organized and I don’t lose things easily, but in the last couple of years I seem to be constantly losing journals. For example, a few semesters ago I started writing in a yellow, faux leather journal that my sister gave me for Christmas. I really liked the size of the journal, the bright yellow cover and the strip of leather on the front that buckled to keep the journal closed. I wrote in it all semester and then one day, I couldn’t find it. I tore my house apart. I looked in my office and in the lost and found at school. I couldn’t find it. I was annoyed. Mostly because I liked the journal and also, who knows what was in there that I could potentially have used for a poem or two?
Today I have the day off and I’ve finally had some time to sit and think about some ideas I had for poems over the holidays. However, when I went up to my office space to look for my writing journal, I couldn’t find it. I have looked all over my house and it doesn’t seem to be here. Now it is possible it’s at work, seeing as how I often take my journal to work if I have a spare moment or two and think of something I want to write down. However, if it doesn’t turn out to be in a desk drawer at school, well, I don’t have the first clue where it might be.
This idea of losing potential ideas for poems or even drafts of poems themselves, reminds me of a story I heard once when I was an undergraduate. A visiting writer came to campus to give a reading and I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember who it was but I do remember he was a fiction writer and he primarily wrote short stories. He was in his fifties and this was probably somewhere around 2000 or 2001. He was talking about how he used to only keep one type written copy of all his drafts/stories but one days his car was broken into and they took everything in it, including the folio that contained all of his work. After this incident, he started keeping multiple copies. He also started using a computer in addition to his type writer.
Of course anyone who uses computers and has suffered through the loss of a hard drive or external hard drive, knows that technology does not completely solve this “art of losing.” In fact, I suffered this exact problem a few months ago when our external hard drive failed and all my poetry was lost. Luckily, my husband who is a determined and brilliant soul, was able to recover the data, but now we both consistently use Dropbox.
While it is frustrating to lose these journals and the material that they hold, there is also something freeing about it. Also, while I seem to become slightly forgetful in the material sense, I’m still lucky to have a good memory, so if an idea or image or line for a poem is particularly interesting to me I am often able to circle back around to it at some point.
All this being said, I’m still going to be on the look out for that journal…