Angels of Discipline

creative writing, work, writing

On keeping a writing journal

Most any book on writing, any writing class or workshop you will attend, will advise you to keep a journal for observations, inspirations, memories, dreams, fantasies, ideas, and plans. A journal is the place where creativity spawns.

When I was 11, I must have made it known to my family that I wanted to be a writer, because Christmas day 1975 I got my first writing journal. It was called The Nothing Book. A paperback of blank pages to fill. Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold in hardcover and paperback. I envy the person who came up with this bestselling concept. Maybe they knew the guy who came up with The Pet Rock, which came out in 1975, too.

My entries were sporadic, embarrassing kid stuff and adolescent ramblings. Honestly, those blank pages were too blank. I didn’t know how to fill them. I wondered if I had anything to say. The act of putting something inside those pages felt too momentous and intimidating. The Nothing Book petered out by the time I got to college and lurked in a shoebox until I rediscovered it this summer. I’m writing in it again. It’s cool seeing one page end in 1983 and the next pick up in 2020.

After The Nothing Book, I moved to spiral bound notebooks, beginning with my high school senior year creative writing class notebook. They contain diary entries and reflections, draft poems, songs, stories, and essay fragments. This continued into college and beyond into adulthood. I didn’t have a method, though. The notebooks were scattershot and loosely dated. As I waddled into my middle years, the journaling spread even more chaotically across multiple paper notebooks—a disorganized amalgam of lecture notes, book notes, to-do lists, feverish rants, manifestos, ideas. Like rampant suburban development, notebook sprawl was becoming a real problem.

I thought technology would solve it. I explored the world of digital journaling, tried desktop applications and private posts on Internet blogs, which oozed into public blogs. I feel like I’ve tried and outlived most of them: blogger, Livejournal, Typepad, WordPress, Posterous, tumblr. Technology only made the sprawl worse.

If Marie Kondo were to assess my cluttered, half-assed attempts to keep journals, she would have a heart attack. What a total f*cking mess.

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All is not well in the groves of academe

economy, education, work

There is sobering news in higher education. It did not start with the Covid19 crisis, but that is certainly the flashpoint in what appears to be the early stages of a collapse. We are seeing more and more evidence of furloughs, layoffs, non-renewals of contracts, mergers, and outright shuttering of some colleges. Choose your metaphor–house of cards, demolition derby, imploding sky scraper–it is a film that will surely make you wince.

For a while now, the winds have not been favorable. Declining pools of first year students due to demographic realities, the student debt debacle, obscene tuition hikes–all have indicated that the higher ed biz was overripe. Now the fruit is dropping off the trees, and it looks like the branches have rotted through. The Chronicle of Higher Education is tracking the damage. You can even input news from your own college. For those of you who work in higher-ed, I hope you survive the cuts. For those about to be cut, brace yourself for a career change. A lot of these jobs aren’t coming back, I’m afraid.