I’ve been looking over my old journals lately. The first entry I read documented the death of my mother. I read about my first marriage falling apart. I read about supporting my first wife and myself on a tiny paycheck and feeling trapped. I read about my first trip to NYC. The earliest entries were from ten years ago. So much has changed since then.
What struck me most after reading the entries was that for the most part, I recall things pretty accurately. There really was a time when we were just scraping by and having to rely on credit cards. I really did have a brutal three months where my first marriage fell apart, I was told my mother had 3-9 months to live, and then watched my mother die
Sometimes I question my memories. Sometimes I wonder if I over embellish them with depressing details. The entries validate my memories.
I don’t come from a tradition of documentation. My family didn’t document their lives. There were school photos, photo Christmas cards, and photos of weddings. That’s it. Maybe they didn’t want to live in the past? Maybe they couldn’t afford to pay for a camera? Maybe they didn’t have time to keep a journal? I don’t know. As such my own journaling has been a conscious effort, not a familial habit.
Looking back, I wrote when shit was going downhill, not when times were good. There are multi-month chunks of time with no entries. Those were times when things were going well. I wonder if I was just trying to enjoy the positive experiences to their fullest and wanted to remember them as they happened, hence not writing anything down.
I have been reading a bunch of zines and zine collections as of late, mostly perzines (personal zines). I am truly amazed at both the unbelievable lives some of these authors have lived and at their willingness to be completely open and honest about some of the most difficult topics people can write about. What can I draw from my life that will speak to other people? This is the question I struggle with. This is what sent me back to my journals.
Zine writers don’t always care about the structure of their stories. Sometimes they just want to say “this thing happened to me.” What intrigues me is that this isn’t seen as a flaw. Zine readers will put up with bad writing if they connect with what the author is saying.
In general the main ways of getting zines are finding them in a store and buying them, getting the author’s info from somewhere and buying directly from them, or sending the author a copy of your own zine hoping they will reciprecate.
I think the last of those might shed some light on the willingness to put up with bad writing in the zine community. People who make zines know how much time and effort and money and toil goes into these things. They know you have to be passionate and have something you truly want to say and get out into the world to take this route. Maybe people want to honor that effort.
I think it is the person to person connection, you know someone is going to listen to you. With the Internet all you can really tell is whether someone looked at your page. That doesn’t tell you whether they read it. When you get that zine directly from the author I think that connection greatly increases the likelihood that the work is going to be read.
I think this is a world I want to become a part of.