The second volume of A Journal for Damned Lovers is comprised of prose written over a twelve-month period from February 2016 to February 2017. During that period, I wrote just under 130k words that ended up on the blog. After the completion of each piece, I saved them in a folder marked ‘Project X’. Come March of this year, Project X became ‘Damned 2’, and so the editing process begun, all seven months of it. Those 130k words have been whittled down to 85k as a result of over a dozen drafts of editing that have sat alongside me writing fresh material for the blog, seven days a week, each week of every month. As with the first volume, it’s not just a matter of taking blog pieces and putting them in a book. It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on the ebb and flow of my writing over that twelve-month arc and then attempting to capture the energy of that journey in the strongest way possible. Some pieces have been almost entirely rewritten to achieve this aim, while others that were created weeks apart now find themselves neighbours after the deletion of what was once in between.
The first thing that struck me during the editing process was the improved quality of my words. I’m no Shakespeare, but I was pleased to find that unlike the first volume, I wasn’t sifting through a sea of abstract visions that required significant work to get them to resonate. This time, each piece had an emotional seed. A core that contained a particular energy and a distinct voice of its own. Of course, there were plenty of pieces that got cut- 45k words worth to be exact- but that was mostly to avoid repetition, or because something just felt out of place. What’s left is a solid and punchy effort. A tight and focused vision that while being more accessible than my first effort, is an altogether more dynamic and in-depth study of the human condition, if I do say so myself.
Of course, when I say human condition, I mean ‘my condition’, as after all, this is a journal that documents my life. But while it does indeed act as a personal memoir, I always try to write in such a way that others can take something from my writing as well. If it were solely for my own benefit, it would surely be a rather difficult read for anyone else. And that’s probably the most challenging thing about the editing process. How do you write a book based on your own set of interactions and memories with the intention of gaining some kind of catharsis with the end product, while at the same time making it a unique and rewarding experience for the reader? Having asked myself this question many times, I don’t think there’s one right answer. There are many aspects you have to take into consideration, and of course, it helps if you can string a sentence together, but I think one word that always jumps out at me is ‘integrity’.
If there’s one thing I look for in someone’s writing, it’s them being honest and forthright. They don’t have to be the world’s greatest author, just as long as they do what they do with a sense of integrity. You can feel it in their words, and as a result, everything they write pulls you in because you know they mean it- that it comes from a good place. Those that write words to impress; those that follow the crowd and write what they think will be appealing to others- that kind of shit turns me off almost instantly. Don’t take the easy way out and write in someone else’s shadow, stand up and go out on a limb. Be liberating to others and yourself by baring your soul and revelling in what you find. Speak the truth. It’s not pretty, and more often than not you’ll get it in the neck, but why sanitise your words? Why be anything less than the heart and soul you are? Don’t write to be popular, and don’t write for adoration. Write because it’s all you have to give.
And with that in mind, that’s how I’ve approached A Journal for Damned Lovers Volume Two. Within its pages, I’ve tried my hardest to document my literary journey in a way that not only makes me proud of the time and effort I’ve put into it but so it also reaches out to others who identify with the nature of my words. For every nauseating hangover, there’s a tender moment of romance. For every memory that feels like broken glass in my chest, a brief moment of hope that gave me wings. There’s shame, guilt, and regret, but none of it’s swept under the carpet. No, it’s worn like a badge of honour, for each scar is a salute to the past. There are so many failed dreams and dead ends that could so easily have been omitted, but failure is what makes us who we are. What’s the point in trying to be someone else when who we are is the only thing we’ll ever have?
Truthfully, I’m proud of the story it tells, and I can honestly say that it was written not to impress, but to reach out to those who are just like me, for we are not alone, and we never shall be. It can be both a draining and maddening exercise at times. Writing fresh work and editing the journal, over and over again with sometimes so little to show for it other than the bags under my eyes and the endless, sleepless nights of doubt. And yet I wouldn’t swap it for anything because there’s nothing else that gives me a sense of identity quite like this. There’s a quote, one of my favourites, by Cesar A. Cruz, that captures the beauty of what I’m trying to say.
“Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.”
The second journal is out at the end of October.