For a while this summer I stopped writing in my notebook and used my cellphone’s text draft folder to store short notes regarding things I would have handwritten entire pages about in the past. My new system was easier and, more important, it made it harder to reread anything I’d written, so I never did. I’ve made the mistake of rereading old journal entries in my notebook before, and it always makes me cringe. It’s embarrassingly obvious in retrospect where I was trying (and failing) to write like whomever I was reading at the moment, and where I was misrepresenting how I really felt about something in an attempt to make myself seem smarter. I get just as disgusted by the occasional lack of effort I see in those pages as I do by evidence of excessive effort wasted on overwrought writing that’s exhausting to read. Typing out abbreviated versions of my thoughts on a tiny keyboard wasn’t that helpful or enjoyable, though, so I eventually stopped recording anything about my days/life altogether.
I can’t read anything I’ve ever written without weighing and critiquing each and every word choice and sentence construction. Inevitably all my work comes up short, and then I have to fight the urge to try to “fix” it, even the stuff that is clearly beyond saving. I wish I could just burn it all at once, purging myself of my past, most mediocre self and turning my writing into ashes, into waste (which feels like what it has always truly been).
I’m being annoying right now. But I don’t know how to continue writing and working with the same mind and the same habits that produced everything I hate. ♦