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The Weekly Blague

47 Years of Keeping Diaries


Francine du Plessix Gray gave me a great piece of advice: "Keep a notebook and write in it every day."


She said this in 1975, when I was a graduate student in the creative writing program at the City College of New York. But I waited two years to take that advice. I'd just finished my first book and was remembering the impossible time I had getting started. I'd taken a long vacation from writing and so hadn't written a word in months. When I tried to begin the book, the words refused to flow. It was as if the writing gears had rusted and wouldn't budge. It took weeks of pounding out reams of gibberish before decent sentences began to form.


The day I typed the last page of the book, I bought a pocket-size memo pad and began scribbling in it. That was 47 years ago. Over that time I've written virtually every day and filled 60 notebooks. Francine's idea, I realized, is to make writing as natural and necessary as breathing. It's how a writer finds their voice.


Since I've been writing in notebooks, getting started on a project has never been as difficult as my first attempt at writing a book. Diaries flow into books flow into blog posts flow into articles flow into books flow into diaries. I refer to the diaries all the time. Beaver Street is based on diaries I kept when I was working as an editor of men's magazines.


Around 1982, I had so many volumes that I started losing track of what any given volume covered. That's when I began decorating the covers with images that serve as reminders. In the photo, Volume 57 covers, among other things, the publication of Bobby in Naziland, which would be renamed A Brooklyn Memoir. Volume 58 covers the first year of the pandemic. Volume 59 covers the publication of the latest edition of Nowhere Man. Volume 60, the current volume, covers my recent trip to Spain.


And so it continues, my life a river of words flowing into an ocean of sentences and paragraphs like the ones you've just read.


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