My brother sent me something rather alarming this morning: PDFs of two pages from his best friend’s journal in which I had been asked to write one bleary evening in 1986. That this journal still exists is amazing to me, that my brother’s friend had thought to photocopy the pages and digitize them for me is just as amazing—but what is perhaps most amazing of all was that, as I re-read this 23 year-old piece of writing, I could remember what it felt like when I wrote it.
I remembered because that was a time in my life when I had begun to discover the power of fast writing—just putting the words down as quickly as possible while thinking as little possible. It was a kind of trick, really, designed to take my very watchful and wicked brain out of the equation.
And it worked for a time. I wrote very quickly and very intuitively, but I had no idea about trying to publish any of it—I just liked how it felt to write that way. My brain, however, wasn’t about to be sidelined so easily, and by the time I sat down to write my first actual novel I called upon the brain because now I needed to sell something and make money and the brain seemed like just the thing to see such a project through.
That first effort was many years and many books ago. I don’t like to think about that first book—it’s like forcing myself to remember what it felt like to perform a play for which I had not memorized my lines. But I don’t much believe in chance, not in what we remember, nor in what comes across our desk.
For hadn’t I just begun rewriting a novel? And hadn’t I just told myself that I am not to think of the publishers waiting to read it, that no matter whether it finds a publisher or not I am to enjoy the writing of it first, last, and only; and that I should write quickly; and that I should write intuitively; and don’t I sometimes forget that; and isn’t it sometimes good to get a 23 year-old journal entry to remind me?