What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the contemporary who reads it and invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it.
I’m reading a book on memoir from someone who doesn’t like to use the word or phrase journaling, her opinion of course. I don’t like to use the word diary because a diary to me has a secretive element to it. Maybe because my diary in grade school has a tiny little lock and key and most entries read like this:
Woke up at 7:00, almost missed the school bus because I was tired and couldn’t seem to get my socks and shoes on, I tried not to talk all morning which was pretty easy because my mom wasn’t up yet but by the time I got to school Debbie was at my locker so I had to talk to her. I think B.W. looked at me today in History class but then again Peter was talking to the teacher and he sits behind me so he could have been looking at him. He never faces forward, always sits turned around in his chair.
To me journaling isn’t writing exactly what happened but seeing where the words take you. My journal entry yesterday started when I fell in the pumpkin patch Tuesday after being weighed down by 16 books in my backpack and ended up in NYC in 1980. I let the transition happen naturally and tried not to stop where my thoughts go. I do wish I had my diary from grade school though, it could have been good for a few laughs. A blog serves the same purpose for me, it gives me a place to write daily, but it is much more censored than my journal. How can blogging, journaling or writing in a diary be helpful in your writing? I think it gives you a place just to write and not to think so much about form. It can evolve into a personal essay, a poem or a short story but there is no expectations it can just be words on a page. Journaling can help you get the stuff out there that needs to be said or wants out of your head. As Abigail Thomas writes in Thinking About Memoir “be honest, dig deep, or don’t bother.” Today write two pages without censoring your words.Now get back to work!
The Writing Nag