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Losing my journals from ages 18 to 40 something is one of the hardest losses. I was a prolific journal keeper, with descriptions of days, feelings, relationships, and encounters. Hundreds of poems. Practically every thought I had. I asked ex-Pat to bring them over on one of his visits, but he brought the wrong box, and I never got around to going to the cozy house myself to find them. That’s on me.

Of course, I can remember a lot, fortunately, but remembering is different than reading my own words and feelings. Going back to old journals, particularly during tough times, helped me gain perspective. I could see how I transitioned through challenges, how I mulled over decisions, and how I grew as a person. It gave me confidence that I’d been through the muck before and found my way out, so I could do it again.

What I have now is the internalized knowledge that I can face things with courage and wisdom. That’s good. But I’m never not going to miss the details. I always hoped that K would someday read them (preferably after I was gone so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions) and get to know her Mother even better than she does. That’s not a possibility now.

It’s funny (well, probably not) but lately, when I start to think of the specifics of the loss of something, and start to feel that too familiar pain in my heart, I turn it off; I mentally distance myself from that grief. Pulling a Scarlet O’Hara with an, “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” or using one of K’s favorites, which is “that’s a thing for another day’s Seasweetie.” Perhaps grief is no longer serving a purpose. I guess that’s what healing looks like.

I have 318 draft posts in the stomach of this blog.

318. That’s getting close to a post for every day of the year (just in case you couldn’t intuit that for yourself.)

But here’s the thing:

I have no idea what some of them are about.

Like most writers, my inspirations do not always strike at the most convenient times – like when I’m sitting down at a keyboard or with a journal and a pen.  So I do what all writers do. I write down whatever I can wherever I can. Because I know I won’t remember it by the time I get to the “writing place”. I can’t even remember the five-item grocery list that I’ve been reciting to myself ceaselessly for an hour – even going so far as to make up a little song as a memory aid – if I walk into King Soopers and am distracted by the shopping carts being stuck together.  Poof!  The list is gone, just like the outline of a cloud. I will, however, remember, while sitting in a meeting at work sixteen hours later, that I forgot to buy lemon juice.

This lack of total recall translates into several things:

1.   I have a dozen notebooks going at once.

2.   Even so, I don’t always have one with me. When I need one and no current notebook is handy, I find (or buy) a new one.

3.   If no notebook at all is available, I use whatever I have to write on – bills, receipts, dry cleaning tickets, my hand.

4.   I can’t throw anything away because it might have a precious nugget of creativity on it (though I do wash my hands). Kelsea is going to have to save everything so she can piece together my memoirs after I am famous and dead.

5.   I am a menace on the road, because it is very hard to write while driving.

6.   Sometimes my notes make no sense at all.

Many of my post drafts are just a title.  If it’s a brilliant enough idea to be a post and to have a title, surely the title will trigger that same waterfall of creativity about the topic.  Wouldn’t one think? Well, one would be wrong.

Take, for example, a post drafted in February 2011 with the title “George and Jennie”.

I don’t know anyone named Jennie. And I only know one George. Maybe something about Winston Churchill’s mother? I tried googling “George and Jennie” – maybe it was something an old movie stirred up, or something inspired by NPR’s StoryCorps series.  I often find that those spark the creative kindling.

The only thing I came up with was a couple named George and Jennie in Fayetteville, West Virginia, who mysteriously lost five of their children after their house caught fire back in 1945. Now, this does sound like something I would actually write about, but I know in my heart that I have never heard of this tale before, nor was it at all related to whatever my post was going to be about.

So I guess my George and Jennie post is as much as mystery as what happened to the five children sixty years ago (not to minimize the tragedy).  It will likely come back to me one day while I am petting a random dog or rock-climbing or changing cat litter. Most likely at a time when no writing resources are available.

Some draft posts are titleless and contain nothing but a few choice phrases. Opening those is like opening a present – I have no idea what I’m going to find inside. But those are the ones that, when the spirit moves me, I can whip into a literary frenzy and complete with relish (and mustard, if that’s your preference). Those drafts are easier to work with.

Many potential posts dwell in my notebooks as well, lists of them.  I often say to Kelsea, “I should write a post about that,” and she’ll say, “You should.” I treat her as my back-up brain – two days later, I’ll ask her,”What was that great idea I had for a post when we were watching Jersey Shore?” Sometimes she can remember, but sometimes she can’t.  Darn unreliable back-up brains.

The notebooks contain nearly finished pieces, but unfortunately, they’re in the notebooks.  And that’s often where they stay. Which is why Kelsea is going to have to keep everything that I have ever written on.  Half-baked (as opposed to fully cooked) posts will also dwell for eternity on neatly lined pages if they take longer than a bus ride to finish.  However, few of them – this one, for example – will, like a single-minded and determined sperm, make it to the promised land.  But only a very few.

A draft is defined as “a preliminary version of a piece of writing” or, if you ask Mr. Webster online, “an instance of drinking”.  I think for a lot of writers, there’s little distinction between the two.  Just ask Hemingway. But at the end of the day, as I contemplate my 318+ drafts, I’m certainly inspired to drink a toast to them, and to all that someday-to-be-tapped creativity.

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