Mondays with Martin: Content in My Bliss

Let’s keep in mind that this year’s writing camp is only about a month off.  Camp runs from June 20 to 24 and all the details are found here — Summer Camp homepage.

Today’s Mondays with Martin essay is one that focuses on the need to write, journaling, and the discovery of self.  Although this short piece dates back to 1992, the message in timeless.

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By David Martin
By David Martin

Someone once said they read books to discover the souls of others. I write to discover my own. I want to discover who I am. Few things in life teach me who I am more than writing in my journal does. This desire for self-knowledge inspires me to write almost every day.

I seldom lack inspiration to write, but I often lose my focus. I spend too much time doing many things other than writing. Earning money, pursuing life’s pleasures, and trying to please others causes me to get lost in the fog of daily existence. I get tired making a living in a stressful environment. I feel waves of people, emotions, and work wash over me and knock me off my feet.

I search for my footing in my journal. I look for meaningful reflections in my sentences and metaphors, and my journal becomes a symbol revealing my true self.

I want to be good at a few things in life. Conveying accurate images through my choice of words is one of them. I want to use my gifts well.

Simple things in life inspire me to write. My heart lifts when I see a male cardinal in a bare tree above the mounds of white snow. My soul warms when I see a strong, male hand hold a tiny child’s little fingers. Fathers teaching sons and daughters the sacrifices needed to reach maturity turn my pages. Lovers look into each other’s eyes and inspire me to paint the scene with words. Close friends sitting together, silently drinking coffee, as they watch moisture form on a window while the cold, Nebraska wind howls outside makes me warm to the possibilities.

I am urged to write when I feel friendly eyes locate me in a crowded room; when loved ones bare their souls to me; when a student comes to class with the attitude, “I am ready to learn today, and you can teach me.”

I write eating gumbo, listening to Cajun music. I look for pen and paper when I hear the carol, “Silent Night,” pierce the air on Christmas Eve. I sit down under a tree to record my emotions when my daughter chooses on her own to take the training wheels off and ride her bicycle solo for the first time. Ray Charles’ “Georgia,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could” all speak to me in the same way. I can not pass up these opportunities.

When my work captivates me, when I hear, “Daddy, I love you!” when I see outstretched hands reaching for a baby’s face, when I feel soft fingers on my shoulder, when I hear the words, “Everything will be all right, now. I am here with you!” I feel fortunate if I can put half of what I feel onto paper.

When I remember my writing passions, I stay on the path meant for me. These times inspire me to write. I am content in my bliss.

Mondays with Martin: My Child, My Journal

By David Martin
By David Martin

A person’s writing may develop into many things. My attempts at creative writing take the form of a journal, a personal warehouse of ideas and feelings. These bits and pieces expand into larger ideas or are used to support other thoughts that come later. My journal began as a skinny, empty, three-ring notebook and evolved into a robust creation with a personality of its own.

My first attempts to originate something from a non-artistic life, bound in the past to mediocrity, surprised me. Without a conscious effort on my part, this unassuming notebook began eating pages scribbled with pathetic sentences, mostly unconnected, didactic, and plain. A few pages held feeble attempts at poetry, stilted, forced rhyming patterns on the most boring topics and secretly hid some scattered, embarrassing attempts at describing the passions of a mid-life crisis or two.

Without knowing what I was seeing, the birth of a journal took place before my eyes. The thing increased its appetite. From a page a week, it soon demanded a page every couple of days. As it got bigger, it enjoyed eating more. It wanted to be fed daily, then ten or twelve times a week. What began as a weak, scrawny creature developed muscles and a healthy attitude towards survival. Each time its covers opened to consume more pages, I sensed the bellows of lungs expanding as though it aggressively inhaled new life.

With increased bulk between the covers, its lips pushed wider apart. It began to smile at me, as it sat on the shelf across the room. I imagined it standing up and strutting in front of those other notebooks that kicked sand in its face when it was just a little child. Now that it became aware of its own mortality, it insists on the four basic health groups for good writing; literature, spelling, grammar, and composition.

Like a parent, I am learning a lot about myself by watching my new child at play, and I think I see the time coming shortly when I will have to find it a name. What would other people think if I did not have a name for my new baby? When it begins to talk, will it develop a psychological problem stemming from a lack of self-confidence without an identity of its own?

Nicholas Notebook? Julia Journal? Danny Diary? Bradley Biography? Ashley Album? Pilar Page? Elizabeth Exposition? Imogene Imagination? Karma Klassic? Big Bubba Book?

At times, I think my journal is a gold fish in a bowl swimming around in circles without much room to explore or opportunity to develop, while others watch me from a position outside my vision and feel a sort of pity at my writing inadequacy. Often, I feel clumsy like Godzilla smashing Tokyo. Of course, some pages show me to be nothing but a large mouth bass looking for sucker’s hook. Other pages convince me that I am a lazy dog waiting in the sun for that creative idea to come by, as I continue to slumber in ignorance.

In rare moments, my little friend also convinces me I am a rose bush with the softest petals, and I celebrate my uniqueness. My back arches proudly when the pages open to something worth reading a second time. It is a second backbone, which supports me when times are tough. My journal, the teacher, explains to me inner ideas that are hard to discuss with others. It acts as a prism reflecting the light of shadowy, mental images. It sings the blues to me in a rhythm I can understand. It is the older brother and sister I never had. It is both masculine and feminine, whose inspirations make me a whole person. It is a growing tidal wave. It shows me doorways between the pages that appear unexpectedly. It carries me to places new and old. The binders reach out and hug me when I need it the most. It is portable and reinforcing. It is a friendship, a crutch, a magic carpet, and a time machine. Alternating between a snail and a 747, its speed constantly fluctuates between short scribbles and long flashes of light.

I read to understand the thought of others. I write in my journal to understand myself. I help shape my destiny by learning to shape the sentences I use. Life speaks for itself, but I listen with my journal. Each written page is a brush stroke added to my life’s painting. Page after page, I view myself in greater depth. One day, I am a bird trapped in a small cage. The next, I am an Eagle soaring close to the face of The Mysterious One.