Moment to moment

Two thoughts that I feel should be in a blog post, though I don’t know how to make them cohere:

Write the days; record this moment as if we were living through history.

Because we are. I’ve seen tweets that implore the necessity of starting a journal now, of recording daily life now, because years down the road we’ll all need to look back and learn and remember. The historians will thank you.

In my mind and in my journaling practice, I have been combining this with writing advice gleaned from Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. Here is a passage:

But here’s a certain kind of journal that might be useful to you: at the end of the day or beginning of the next day, return to some event of the day that evoked an emotion in you. Record that event in the journal. But do this only—only—moment to moment through the senses. Absolutely never name an emotion; never start explaining or analyzing or interpreting an emotion. Record only through those five ways I mentioned that we feel emotions—signals inside the body, signals outside the body, flashes of the past, flashes of the future, sensual selectivity—which are therefore the best ways to express emotions. Such a journal entry will read like a passage in a novel, like the most intense moment-to-moment scene in a novel…

Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream, p. 28

This method of journaling is mostly meant for creative writers trying to improve some element of “craft.” But it’s useful for others, too, who are just getting into the habit, who maybe feel that same impulse to record something about this moment in time. Do it moment to moment. Focus on emotions, and let the events and facts fall into place from that.

After this, there is no going back to a world from “before.”

The world before is what led us here. Why should we go back? This is something that has been personally frustrating for me, and has pervaded my life, from my politics to my personal goals. Why should the world go back to the way it was? Hasn’t it been made abundantly clear that business as usual is a recipe for failure?

I have very little patience with the idea that change must come incrementally. This pandemic is a wake-up call; we cannot put radical change on a ten-year timeline. It must be done now. Action must be taken now. And while that inspires its own kind of anxiety, I think that the people who think that incremental change is necessary in order to give us all the time to adapt underestimate just how resilient we are. We don’t need time to “get used to” a new world.

We also just don’t have the time.


Header image is from July 2019.

Published by Caroliena Cabada

Caroliena Cabada is a graduate student at Iowa State University pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment. Her writing has been published in online and print journals, and she's currently at work on a collection of short stories.

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