Charting a Life and Dispelling the Doubt — Now In Its Fourteenth Year

February 13, 2012

The . . . usual functions of [a journal are] to chart a life, to pique a memory, to confirm inner life and perhaps to dispel the doubt that one exists at all.
— Frances McCullough, b. 1939
American editor
from the Introduction to The Journals of Sylvia Plath

Today is the thirteenth anniversary the earliest incarnation of what would become Markings — Days of Her Life. I was prompt to that party, in the first wave of “escribitionists” who did not think to call themselves “bloggers.” In fact, The Silken Tent went live four months before the mailing list discussion that suggested the term as an alternative to “journaller.” Some in that first wave are still online, some have found other avenues of expression. The discussion list survives, although many of the original voices have fallen silent. I have formed genuine friendships with a number of people I met through the OLJ community. I’ve even met some of them “in real life,” as they say, and spent extended time with them.

I was in my first year out of the classroom, my first year out of the career that had identified me for almost thirty years, that week in February of 1999 when I was wandering the World Wide Web in search of something to do with my creative energy, and the isolation I was beginning to feel. Establishing myself as a “blogger,” a term I at first resisted but now embrace, was the best thing I ever did for my writing.

In these thirteen years I have amassed around 700 essays. That works out to about one a week. There have been periods when I’ve posted something every day, and periods when I have gone weeks without something new. I’m in something of a fallow period now, at least online, as I deal with the winter blahs, a Monster Mutating Virus that took hold in mid-January and let go only today, and the preparation of my annual application to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

In my first post thirteen years ago I quoted a very young Sylvia Plath on her reasons for keeping a diary. She said she wanted to “keep and hold the rapture” of being seventeen. In recent weeks I have walked the landscapes that I inhabited when I was seventeen, trying to access the energy that I felt then. I have nothing written from those days, although the walks do pique my memories, and when I get home I write them down.

This is coincidentally the 101st anniversary of my mother’s birth. As I wrote in the eulogy I gave for her in 1993, “Rose Dwyer was born on February 13, 1911. It was a Monday, and every post office in America was closed that day because a mail carrier’s daughter had been born (so her father told her), and only incidentally because Lincoln’s Birthday, a federal holiday, had fallen the day before. She died November 11, 1993, Veterans’ Day. Once again, every post office in America was closed.” And here we are, Lincoln’s Birthday a Sunday again, but the post offices were not closed today, because Presidents’ Day has subsumed it. At least they still observe her death date.

The blahs are beginning to lift. I’ve kept up with reading a poem a day, a writing a letter, too, although there is a slight backlog on mailing. This evening I noticed that it was still almost light at 6:00. I may not be a genius of a writer, as Sylvia Plath saw herself, but I have in me the capacity to keep on keepin’ on. I am doing the best work of my life, the work that will make my name.

Thank you for reading, so much, so often.

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