Diary Dates…

Diaries

Every now and then, I get the urge to write and be creative with words, and that time has come for this year. I am never quite sure what to write, as it’s rare that I write creatively (as in fiction), but there comes a time each year when the sap rises and I start to think about this more seriously than at other times.

As part of this project, I started to read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, and then I dug up some old writing from when I was about twelve years old in England and composing my pre-teenagery thoughts in my diary. Lots of minutiae from a pre-teen perspective, but still fun to look at. I am impressed at my young self for keeping this diary up as I wrote almost every day from about 1976 (when I was 12) until I moved to the US when I was 20. I don’t have the later editions, but I do have the earlier versions (which are probably more funny and less serious).

Virginia Woolf was a big diary-keeper person:

But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and the stumbles. Going at such a pace as I do I must make the most direct and instant shots at my object, and thus have to lay hands on words, choose them and shoot them with no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink.

And I really connect with her description of how she wanted her diary to be:

What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through.

A “capacious hold-all” – what a fabulous description of such a document! And I can see overlaps between a diary and what’s called a commonplace book (a la Victorians), except that I think diaries have more personal reflection and thoughts in as opposed to those of other people.

I still keep a journal, although it’s a bit sporadic and digital nowadays. I don’t also tend to keep the documents for a while afterwards, as most of the time, it’s usually me trying to sort out something in my head and so I think it would be either mortifying for someone else to read it and/or boring. But I really enjoy the act of writing out my thoughts, much more clarifying than trying to have an actual conversation with a real human in present time. I am much more comfortable writing words than saying them out loud, and perhaps it’s because I have always been an avid reader since I was a child.

Despite the fact that I don’t let others see my journal entries, I do enjoy reading others, ranging from Adrian Mole to anthologies such as The Assassin’s Cloak or A Year in the English Countryside .

I am also relentlessly drawn to epistolary novels (see this post here), and in fact, one of the fiction books that I have just finished was epistolary in nature (Where’d you Go, Bernadette?)

So – what about you? Are you a regular diary or journal keeper?

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