I have never had much use for writing magazines. When I first began writing, I went to them for instruction, guidance, the revealing of writerly secrets. I didn’t find as much of that as I wanted. Plus, the issues kept piling up in my home, not quite read all the way through, because what is focus? So I canceled my subscriptions and when more offers for magazines arrived in my mailbox, I ignored them.
One of those offers came from Poets & Writers. I had never subscribed to them nor had I submitted to them, so I’m not sure how they got my address and the knowledge that I wrote. But while sick these past couple of weeks, I ordered a digital subscription on a whim. I had long wondered what they had to offer.
Though I still did not find the revelation of secrets to writing stories loved by all, I did find a joyful celebration of writing. A loving lingering over impactful word choice, a delving into the triumphs and heartbreaks of writers, and desperate expressions of the struggles writers face. High emotion for all things writing dripped from the paragraphs, such that I felt validated as a wielder of words for the first time in a long time. Perhaps it’s all just an ego stroke in the end, but one that we writers, toiling away in obscurity and anxiety, could use once in a while.
This issue of Poets & Writers featured as its main article ‘Inside the Notebooks,’ revealing the journals, sketchbooks, and thinking boards from several prominent literary authors. These pages represented the hearts and minds of writers, often scribbled out in big, sprawling letters, on cardboard, and even across walls. Sketches thrown together with no intent to show others, portions blocked off with uneven lines. Sentences that flew up the page toward the top right corner.
The sight of that whole beautiful mess imparted to me a sense of relief. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make pretty bullet journals with straight lines and perfect sketches. I wasn’t the only one who threw word spaghetti at the page just to see what stuck. Who let feelings out in the margins.
Maybe, all along, this was what I needed from writer magazines. A presentation of reality for writers.
So in the spirit of inside the notebooks, I figured I would do my own notebook reveal. The pictures aren’t great, some of the words misspelled, the margin thoughts messy and disjointed. But that’s the whole takeaway, isn’t it?
Not being perfect. Just being brave.
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