I began writing in journals when I was thirteen. I was inspired by a late-night adventure I had with friends that no one would have thought twice about in the early 70s but would have given me a heart attack if my daughter had taken a similar jaunt when in middle school. Anyhoo, a few weeks ago I was in such desperate need of a plot that I began searching through my 20+ years of journals hoping to recover some memory I could spin like Rumpelstiltskin into mystery plot gold. What I came across was pretty much 20+ years of Wagnerian opera-level drama and terrible poetry about life, family, and – duh – boys. Entries like this one, written when I was in college:
Notice how I’ve redacted the profanity. Yes, I had a potty mouth at a young age. (Also, note that made-up word: retributed. Bad Ellen! I was way too old to be that illiterate.)
After an hour or so, as I was on the cusp of having depressed myself to the point of day drinking, I suddenly came upon that most rare thing – an upbeat journal entry. In the early 1980s, I spent several years working at the Dramatists Guild in New York. The board was comprised of legends most theatre/film aficionados can only dream of meeting. Well, not only did I get to meet luminaries like Edward Albee, Garson Kanin, Mary Rodgers, John Guare, and Lanford Wilson (who I once walked in on going to the bathroom – we kept the phone books in there), I experienced magical moments like this one with Stephen Sondheim:
While I didn’t find a storyline in my journals, the search reminded me of an experience that has generated a potential plot, albeit circuitously. And despite the angst, it was fascinating to relive important memories, positive and negative, that comprise my past.
In NY and LA, there used to be these great events where people read from their youthful journals. Oh, how I long to bring that to life once again in the mystery community. In the meantime, I plan on summoning the strength to plow through the journals I bailed on. Even if it entails a little – or a lot – of day drinking.
Readers, did you – or do you – keep journals? Are they as drama-filled as mine?