I admit it. It’s true. I cheated.
It was English — whether it was Freshman English or a later Creative Writing course, I can’t remember. I do remember we were supposed to journal, because, afterall, writers write.
So, you know how it goes. Our assignment was to write something in a notebook regularly. Easy enough. We could share our deep dark secrets, write delicious prose about the happenings in our young lives (or was it write prose about the delicious happenings in our young lives — hmmm…was this a voyeristic exercise on the part of the professor?) or, a little bit about a lot of nothing — whatever came to mind. The important thing was to practice writing. And more important than that, we would submit our journals at the end of the term and they would be part of our grade.
I’ve never been a journaler. I didn’t keep a diary as a kid. Even when I was a child, if I wrote something, I always thought of it as more than just for me — I guess to provide some kind of entertainment or insight for other people. I’m certain I was quite egotistical, as a lot of kids are. I may (or may not) have humbled some with age, but I still have a hard time writing just for me. Plus, there’s the confining aspect of having to write in a specific book and doing it regularly.
Today, it’s pretty clear to me why I had such difficulty with this assignment. I tried then, and have many times since, to keep a book… a journal. I’ve always failed. I can’t do it. I’m passionate about my writing, but only when I’m passionate about my writing. (Does that make sense?) I’m much more comfortable writing on the back of a grocery receipt or bar napkin or business card or whatever is handy when I am moved — which is most certainly irregularly rather than regularly.
So, I was forced to cheat for that English class. I tried. I kept an intermittent official “journal”. For the days I didn’t have official entries, I siphoned through my napkins and paper scraps and filled in and made up. I used different colored pens to try to make it look like I wrote on different dates but the reality was I wrote most of it the night before it was due.
I got an “A”. I guess it didn’t matter so much when or where that I wrote, but that I did write. My professor had to have known. I like to think he was teaching me more about how writing would fit in my life than about journaling.
Or maybe he just liked what he read.