Friday, June 1, 2012

Blame Jack Gantos

A month ago or so when I stopped writing the blog I mentioned that I was doing a lot more creative writing. Journal writing in particular. At the time I talked about my beautiful fountain pen that I've been overworking. I talked about enjoying the feel of paper. I'm sure I even mentioned how journaling keeps me sane. But I know I didn't talk about my greatest influence that got me back into creative writing (although stopped my blogging for a while), Jack Gantos.

I picked up Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos on a whim. The cover artwork was originally off-putting but I had heard good things. So I picked it up. One morning I sat down with a pot of coffee and the book and didn't stop reading until I was finished. I'd never heard a voice that fresh. Joey, the narrator, jumped off the page. He was quirky and confidential and I loved him. He's an amazing character, honest and messed-up. And the writing was so fresh. I devoured the book. Then I started learning more about the man who created it.

The interviews I read or listened to with Jack were all about journals. Jack has been journaling regularly since he was young. Almost all of his novels have come out of those journals in some way or another. I'm jealous. In a moment of madness 10 years ago I tossed all of my journals up to that point. I still regret that. Jack describes writing as "blue-collar work" and keeps a very dedicated writing schedule. And I found that inspiring. Not only have I been reading through all his books, but I've started journaling daily. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I stop at the library on the way home from work for 40 minutes or so of writing. On Saturday and Sundays I sit down in the early morning hours with my coffee and  my notebook to write. I'm not sure what all will come out of it book-wise, but I know that I feel more productive, more creative, and certainly saner.

I'm about half finished with Jack's oeuvre and have not been disappointed by a single one. I laughed until I cried at sections of Jack's Black Book. I was horrified and worried through Hole in My Life, Jack's memoir of being in prison. He has a unique voice that I haven't read before. But it's his habits that got me thinking. I found him inspiring, in terms of his teaching and as an example. And because of that inspiration I have been doing more of my own work. And for that I thank him.

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