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I’ve kept journals faithfully since I was about 20. When I finish one, I toss it into a huge box ‘with the others’.

Recently, I decided to embark on what I call ‘The Journal Project’. I’m working on a poetry book and wanted to generate a whole lot of new material, so that only my very best stuff will end up in the book. I see a lot of poetry books published with what I call ‘filler’ poems – the poems that are ‘meh’, that are ‘ok’, that have one or two nice lines but aren’t that great as a whole. Because I’m a virgo, a control freak, a perfectionist…I want to produce a book full of the very best poems I am capable of writing. I have plenty of ‘filler’ poems – but I don’t want to use them in the manuscript.

I know – pretty high standards for myself…and it means a couple of things – firstly, I can keep stringing out this book writing thing because ‘it’s not there yet, not yet’ and secondly, probably my very best writing is some amazingly talented poet’s ‘filler’.

Anyway, I thought a good way to generate some new material might be to read through my old journals – see if there are the seeds of poems there, or if just revisiting my younger selves triggers memories etc. So I got the journals out (there are 32) put them in chronological order and started at the beginning – the university years.

It’s kinda painful really. Not dark painful, but squirmy and embarrased painful. There is all that insecure, angsty stuff of one’s early 20s. But it’s good, illuminating – and it is resulting in new poems and other writings, not to mention a whole lot of reflection on my life – which can’t be a bad thing, right?

I’ve gotten as far as my OE to England. I’m looking forward to getting into my child-having years, because then I might actually recognize the person writing as myself. At the moment the breathless young thing scrawling excitedly about music and boys and feminism seems like someone I vaguely knew once, very long ago.

One things for sure – I’ve come a long way, baby. And I can say with some certainty that apart from perhaps my flawless, unwrinkly skin and thinner butt, I would not go back to those early 20-something years for anything.

I like the ‘me’ of today much more.

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