Since teenagerdom I’ve been accumulating an enormous pile of books filled with agonisings, musings and outpourings about my life.
They inhabit the carrier bags of doom, stuffed in the back of a dark cupboard, cowering as the great de-clutter moves ever nearer.
All that scribbling has served me well over the years. The solitary pleasure of sitting up in bed writing frantically, getting it all out of my head and on to the page, has helped stop the merry-go-round of obsessive thoughts and even prompted the occasional decision.
What’s It For?
This year though, the cerise felt-covered book has lost its allure. What is the purpose of all this navel-gazing? Is there a better way to spend my time than writing it all down?
Lately I’ve realised that one reason I write is to put the brakes on time, to preserve experiences by writing them down, and keep them so my life won’t disappear behind me like a vapour trail. It doesn’t really work. Like old photo albums, diaries of the past can only represent a one-dimensional portrait of a moment long-gone.
I might be a lot better off putting my focus on the present moment.
Who Am I Writing For?
Sometimes I do want to look back, and sometimes it’s valuable. Other times it’s sad, like picking at an old wound. And often I end up berating myself, ‘…you really didn’t have a clue in those days, did you…’. Not kind, nor helpful.
I do sometimes imagine Older Me, arriving at a time when nothing new and noteworthy is happening in her life, so she actually wants to curl up with a pile of old diaries and leaf through – ‘Hmm, so I made a beef stew when Jenny and Sean came round in 1978 – no idea who they were…’
Maybe I’m writing them for my children. Ah yes, the heritage. But a lot of it is such cringeworthy stuff, I’d far rather they burned the lot unopened. They might enjoy the childhood memories, such gems as my daughter’s comment, aged 2, hearing noises off in the supermarket loo saying loudly, ‘I think someone just done a big crap in there…’ – (where did she learn such vulgar language?).
But no. The diaries are crammed with the stuff of a life, large and small, and of interest only to me. And a lot of it not even that interesting.
Different Ways to Keep a Diary
Despite this, I still feel an urge to keep a lighter record, so I’ve been trying a few things instead of the screed.
- Draw rather than write. I like stick people and speech balloons.
- Note one thing heard during the day that was funny, smart, or touching.
- Sum the day up in one word
- Pick a random word from a book and use it to spark a quick poem – write for 3 minutes
These are fun, quick and say a lot without the need for three pages of handwriting. If you’re an inveterate diarist, give them a go yourself.
Do you keep a diary? What is its underlying purpose – or does it even need one? Have you tried other ways of recording events in your life? Please share your thoughts below.