Writing from the personal: correspondence and journaling



American author, John Steinbeck, used journal writing as a tool for creativity. A notebook and pen, or an electronic device if that’s your preference, is not a novel way of teasing out ideas. Yet scratching out thoughts in a manual way (whether they're destined for general fiction, fantasy fiction, or article writing) embeds concepts in a fluid way into the psyche. The creative flow of a writer may be aided by reading, conversation, experience, but getting it out on paper or screen is akin to working at the coal-face. It’s hard. It’s exhausting and it can be dirty, but the end result is worth the buckets of sweat put into the production.


Steinbeck was also an avid letter writer. Do emails count as letter writing? For some people, they probably do. Most of my emails are to do with work rather than sharing intimacies or mundane details of my day or week. Familiar written communication has been too much diverted by fast and easy to dash of electronic mail or the even shorter, text messaging. Creativity is stymied somewhat by such rushed (lazy?) missives. I’m sure many people take the time to converse via mail or use email’s in a similar long-form way. Yet I wonder the impact of digital communications on the true sharing of thought, ideas and news by ink on paper.


Image sourced from www.steinberg.org


How might Steinbeck’s letters have looked or read if he had the use of modern media and platforms. I also wonder what future generations will make of the lack of a “paper trail” when exploring writers from the digital age. Will email correspondence be as easy to track down as paper letters? Or will those emails be hidden behind firewalls or buried in secure file servers, unobtainable. Forgotten. Will readers be presented with the published works of an elite few rather than a wider pool of lesser known philosophers, poets and authors?


Blogs have opened up journal writing to an audience of writers and readers in an unprecedented way. At any time, any place, there is someone bleeding their soul into a blog post. I suppose that the ethos of “once its uploaded to the internet it lasts forever” will make up for any downturn in letter and journal writing. Sites such as brainpickings.org are recorded in the Library of Congress’s web archive. I’m not sure of the lifespan of ordinary blog posts. What happens when bloggers stop writing? When sites are deleted? When the host site has disappeared? If everything on the internet lasts forever, do the lost, forgotten and abandoned words float around just waiting for someone to find them? I hope so.


For every drop of creativity, every personal word from deep within the heart and psyche, written and shared and forgotten, I hope that one day someone new will find it and be inspired, with understanding or imagination or the wisdom of those that came before.

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