When I decided to give up on writing for a living (thank you Emerson College and your Master's Degree in Print Journalism!) the world opened up to me and didn't close in and suffocate me like I envisioned. Everyday was a battle, questioning myself, questioning my writing. My writing didn't match up to my peers in grad school, let alone the rest of the literary world. The outlook was bleak. My decision had nothing to do with giving up. If anything, it was overcoming a frightening obstacle. I am now able to pursue careers in nearly any field, experiencing places and people without having to sit and write for an editor. I write for myself and that's all I really ever wanted. I'm not Pepys and I don't intend to imitate any such personal journalists, diarists, essayists or even modern bloggers. I've written about this before, but the past few days have been trying, stretching my will to points unknown.
"All writers read, but not all readers write." I don't know exactly who said that and it doesn't particularly matter. In fact, I'm repeating myself, because I know I've written a piece on this before. But the point is, I read. I'm not a critic or reviewer. I'm not articulate enough. I'm a reader. It's what give me breath each morning and keeps me awake at night, listening to the creaking of the window panes. It is what I've become.
Last night, I continued reading Allen Ginsberg's journals from the 1950s. It is this experience that has reinforced my decision. I could never compare to genius. He was about 30 years-old when he started these journals in 1954 and his mind grasped words, concepts, structure and history as well as anyone. I'll be 30 in three years, by then, maybe I'll be able to understand half of what I read. Ginsberg knew he was to be a 20th Century Whitman. It was his destiny to write of a life, his life. It was his salvation. My salvation comes in a form of voyeurism, where I get to sneak into his bedroom late at night and steal through his journal. My salvation is in this reading. My nirvana comes with the crafted printed word.
(For a related article, check out Emily Barton's review of Francine Prose's new book on writing in the NY Times.)