“I had arrived at long last”

I was once a regular letter writer. I was not alone then: posting long, thoughtful, detailed letters by mail was not uncommon before the 1990s. It is amazing when I think on how that was not that long ago either – although if it was before you were born, I guess it is now “history.” (See previous post.πŸ˜‚)

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Yes, we may still use stamps in 2018. We even use Star Wars ones:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

I never imagined I’d see Her Majesty alongside “R2 D2.” In any event, aside from birthday cards and the like, it is rare that we use them for anything much other than replying to formal communications including with the Empire’s electric companies or water companies, etc.

With the arrival of email in the 1990s, writing letters changed. Messages sent around the world, or even to the next town, no longer needed stamps or to be posted. Sending notes to friends, family, and, uh, sometimes lovers, became easier and more casual. We also found we had to get used to “the press of a button” speed which could be, at times, a bit dangerous:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Yet unlike others I’d never kept a formal journal – well, not for very long anyway. I have always been intrigued by those who could. I’m especially impressed by those who managed to for years… because I’d always wanted to do that:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Paperback. Photo by me, 2018.]

The closest I came was I went through periods during which I made regular notes and scattered personal – and confidential – observations mostly in spiral notebooks. Insofar as I am aware, they are long gone now – usually discarded due to my stumbling on them many years after they had been composed, re-reading them and thinking, “Oh, dear, God, no one else must ever see this…”

I have noticed this especially among some new recent followers whose blogs I’ve visited in reply. (HELLO! BONJOUR! HOLA! GUTEN MORGEN!) Blogs have moved on from what they were a decade ago. Now they are as likely as not to consist of public diarizing. (Did I just invent a word?) I see so many now that are essentially online journals (a lot like mine in their own ways) that we are all invited to read.

I note all that because regularly I also come across some who wish to write short stories or books, but claim they don’t know what to write about. I find that astonishing. For based on what I see on merely some blogs, many of their owners could definitely produce a novel.

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995. Paperback. Click to expand. Photo by me, 2018.]

Here’s a suggestion of something to try if you are one of those and still claim you don’t know what you want to write about. Begin by composing a brief memoir. Describe the house in which you were raised; your hometown; your parents; your school(s); your best friend(s); any first boyfriend or girlfriend; any “noteworthy” people in your family, including any who are/were “odd”; describe somewhere where you have traveled – even if only to the next province or state – and something about it that you felt made it special; and then choose somewhere on the globe where you secretly would like to live but feel you never will, write about moving to that new hometown, imagine the first friend and/or boy or girlfriend there you make, and finally one or two things you would like to see after you have settled into your new house or apartment: “I had arrived at long last.”

Finished? See what you’ve got now? That’s a simple exercise in self-examination and imagination that can run easily to two dozen pages, a humble start that focuses your mind and can lead to a lot more – if fully rewritten into fiction, it could eventually become a romance, or a science fiction adventure, or whatever. At the very least, you may have a few laughs as you produce it.

Have a good day, wherever you are writing in the world. πŸ™‚