By Melissa Jane Osborne, Writer of THE WENDY PROJECT
I’ve been staring at the blank notebook for fifteen minutes, and I can’t lift up the pen. This is my longest relationship. I’ve kept journals since I was nine years old, and we’ve been on a break for a while. My journals have changed through the years, they’ve been post it notes, moleskines, countless blank books wooden and ornate, they’ve been e-mails and people. I’m not sure how to go back.
I’ve always been obsessed with blank books, the idea of them, the empty potential. I give them as gifts and write ‘fill me’ in the inside cover. I’ve written a book that’s supposed to be one. I love the idea that you’re giving someone a safe space, to pour out anything. Somehow now looking at this blank page, filling it seems daunting. I’m afraid of contents that have yet to exist.
My first journal was a series of heart covered post it notes. Every night I’d write letters to my future husband, because my thoughts had to go somewhere to someone. “Dear my someone,” I’d write. (Sure, it was corny, but I was 9.) I imagined that he had the intelligence of Ira Glass, but looked like Prince William. I’d tell him about my day, and shoved each note in a shoebox under my bed to give to him when we met. That way he would know me, he would have a box of who I was. It was a really bad fourth grade performance art piece. I imagine showing up to first dates now with a shoe box of letters from a nine year old, and sitting there and ordering a drink as the poor guy reads through. I have yet to meet my someone and the shoe box is long gone. My next journal had a lock and key, although I think it I lost the key and eventually cut through the plastic lock. There were more after that, sometimes four in a year, and along the way I graduated from writing letters to my someone to myself.
As a teenager my journals got me through. They were a conversation with myself. I could questions things, admit things. Although I had amazing friends I was embarrassed to put things on them. They didn’t come from broken homes, didn’t have sick parents, and I assumed they didn’t have clinical depression. So in my journal I didn’t pretend. In my journal I could be messy, proud, scared and excited I could be wherever I was. I’d write questions and sometimes I’d write my way to answers.
Most of the entries are about relationships, feelings, wanting to be understood, wanting to be seen. Things most of us want. Reading them back is like hanging out with an old friend who annoys you sometimes, mostly because you’re the same. They are sometimes cringe inducing and sometimes insightful. There are annotated aim conversations, and e-mails divulging feelings. Some of the pages are tear stained, some funny, some melodramatic. Reading them back is horrifying, but they weren’t for me they were for her. A journal isn’t about the content it’s about the purge.
At nineteen I fell in love, and I broke it off with my journal. I had him. We wrote letters and e-mails, confided all the things I wanted to say. When we broke up I went back to the book. I got more formal in my twenties. Morning pages got me through break ups, an assault, PTSD and multiple cross country moves. I’d get better and I’d throw those pages aside. I stuffed my bound friends in boxes in basements. I stopped writing to myself. I made my work my journal, sent others bits of it, others who didn’t deserve it. The memoir of my twenties should be called ‘beautiful e-mails written to boys who don’t matter.’ I’d write because I wanted something not because I needed to get something out. My journal became texts, social media, blogs, instagram, a cultivated thing that wasn’t just for me. I convinced myself I grew out of filling those blank pages, when really I think I was afraid of what they’d hold. The idea of definitively writing where you are is scary. It’s not a character, it’s not a status update, a witty text, it’s not a script or a book to sell, it’s you on the page.
I look at the quote above my desk. It’s from the Gospel of Thomas “If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will set you free.” This quote is me. I’m a horrible monster if I’m not creating, I’m emotionally constipated, and anxious. When I’m not acting or writing something new I’m mean, resentful and awkward. I need to get things out, I guess I always have. I open the book. I’m afraid of what will come out, but know it has to. The pages have my back, they always have. I pick up the pen and write.
Want more of Melissa’s work? Don’t forget to check out Melissa’s Book “The Wendy Project” available to purchase now. Click here for more information and to buy.
You can also follow Melissa on Twitter @osbornejmelissa.