March: In like a...
What's it going to be?
Thanks for tuning in to this issue of Loomings! If you’re headed to AWP, come see me on the panel “Hacking the Job Market: Getting (and Surviving) an Academic Job.” Or turn up for Barrelhouse’s Conversations & Connections conference in Washington, DC on April 15 and get hands-on with metaphors in my cross-genre workshop!
I don’t know that I’ve ever managed to keep proper track of March’s entries and exits enough to know if the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” adage holds true—or has ever held true—as I’ve lived the month. If I move past the weather, the start of March is always a lion, coinciding as neatly as it does with mid-terms, and the end of it is baseball’s Opening Day, which makes me feel lamb-like with springy delight, but which is also part and parcel of the most whirlwindish part of the school year.
To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ve successfully been able to keep track of, long-term. I don’t mean day to day things—I’m pretty competent at keeping a firm grip on my calendar and various tasks—but the recording of regular and repeating details has never quite stuck. The world is full of great diarists and recorders, some famous, some infamous, and some more mundane. My grandfather, for example, keeps a log of the weather, every day, inside the two-inch squares of the insurance company calendar hanging beside the stove. He has done so for as far back as my memory goes, the daily commitment, tight scrawled, to sun-up and sun-down, the high temperature and the low, the behavior of sun and clouds and precipitation. My mom asked me for a new notebook this Christmas because she’s started jotting down what she’s done every day, which she didn’t really do before.
I did keep a diary in middle school, of exactly the sort of things that middle school diaries are full of, but I stopped when I realized two things: the little brass locks on a commercially purchased child’s diary aren’t actually very secure and there wasn’t very much in said diary that merited the Grand Secret Importance I fixed on it. I have since gone on occasional flings of journaling—Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals project at the start of the pandemic brought on the most recent, which lasted something like a month.I’ve tried to keep track of my reading using a paper notebook, only to rebel against the fact that I didn’t have the correct notebook with me when it was time to update or I got frustrated with having to look at the lazy version of my handwriting. I have tried to track my moods and how certain foods affect the same, and I’ve banished the consideration with a handwave: I don’t need to track it every day to know that three p.m. is hard for me and a handful of peanut butter cups is likely to make it worse. I have tried to do morning pages and have rebelled against doing what felt like just faffing about when I could just be jumping into my fiction because I am a morning writer. I have tried, then, to do evening pages, and I simply went to sleep instead.
That I can’t keep a journaling or tracking kind of habit in motion puzzles me. I am an intensely routine-based creature, and I like to collect little bits of things—observations, snippets of ideas, words and phrases and definitions—the same way I like to collect interesting rocks. But I put them everywhere. Like the rocks. Perhaps this is predictable. Only sometimes do I gather up this ephemera, make them safe somewhere. It’s never at regular intervals.
Despite all of this, I am sure I will try again. I will decide I have a project of sorts: some daily recording for a set period of time. (I am already planning one of those this summer, even as I can feel the thorns of resistance budding on the vine. Shh, I say, don’t balk yet. We haven’t even gotten a new notebook yet.) Lions, lambs, it’s all one.
Are you a diarist or a journaller or a recorder of particular things? Tell me how you do it, please. How do you stick with it?
What I’m making:
It’s been a while since I’ve had some finished yarn to share. This is another skein (and a mini-skein) of my Fossil Fibers Tour de Fleece project. The semester being what it is and my champion hobby-derailer-cat Roo make all of this slow going, but slow is not the worst thing.
What I’m reading:
On Tuesday, I participated in a read-in of works by African American writers as part of the campus’s Black History Month celebrations, which meant doing the impossible task of selecting a few poems from Adrian Matejka and Ross Gay. Though each participant only had a few minutes in which to read, going back to Map to the Stars and Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude to choose some favorites was one of the real pleasures of the last few days.
What I’m writing:
I spent much of the past weekend’s writing time working on my NEA application
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It’s a really enjoyable, thoughtful project, and if I didn’t stick with it, that is entirely on me.
This year, I’m using the Book Riot reading log, which I’ve modified/customized, and that’s somehow much better. I’m not sure why. Most of the time I’m looking for ways to make everything more analog, not less, but this seems to agree with me. Probably because it’s easier to update it piecemeal, as necessary, in a way that didn’t feel right in a paper journal.
Do you experience this? I actually quite like writing by hand, and my go-to “doodle” in meetings is simply to write out the alphabet in a loose half-uncial hand using one of my always-inked stub nibs. I can do it nicely. But most of the time, I don’t. When I’m rushed (or tired or feeling guilty or vexed about how much time doing it nicely takes), it falls to pieces. I can still read it, but I’m really only making about 1/3 of the letters in any given word. Certain words become glyphs. I find it annoying to look at, so I usually don’t look back.
My behavior is truly ridiculous. I think morning/evening pages are a GREAT idea and so many people I admire do them! And yet!
In a Scrivener file, most of the time, to avoid that handwriting issue.
Prose folks, you have until March 8!