Do you keep a journal or a diary? A personal one in which you unload all of your daily hurts and fears, record your secret dreams, and plan for the future?
What do you do with it once it is full? Do you pop it on the bookshelf? Squirrel it away in a secret location? Store it in a box in the shed? Or do you simply throw it in the bin?
If you keep it, why do you keep it? Is it so that you yourself can look back on that time in your life and remember events, or is it so that in the future your grandchildren can read about your life? Maybe it is simply because your secrets are too great to risk exposure.
My grandmother was very good at keeping a journal, she scribbled her daily news down in a number of plain exercise books, the kind a student would take with them to school. They are in my possession now, and over the years have been read my my mother, myself, and recently, my teenager. They cover events such as my grandmother not wanting to go to school as a child, of her standing in front of the open bathroom window after her shower, wet and shivering, as the London air swept over her, hoping to magically become ill so that she could remain at home.
She speaks of having a bomb explode in front of her and her younger sister as they walked to the shop for milk, and how that caused her nerves to quite literally fray, leaving her with the shakes for the rest of her life. She tells the story of her engagement, the adoption of her child, the miracle news of finally being with child, there is even a section in there dedicated to her joy at learning of my birth and of spending time with me as a baby.
For my grandmother, recording her daily life was as much a part of her routine as brushing her teeth was. I don’t think that she ever imagined that one day her great-grandson would be reading the words she wrote as a young teenager herself.
It is quite a sobering thought really, that someone might read your words in seventy years.
For those who are keen to keep a diary but afraid that they will not be able to keep the habit up, there are all sorts of novel journals out there in the market, from those that ask a single question for you to answer each day, to those that simple give you the space to write a single sentence summing up your day.
Personally, I use a dated diary instead of a journal, and if I miss a day (or six), I simply go back and fill in those spaces with a list, my current favourite baby names, or items that I purchased that week, or some other random thing. I think that helps to add a little interest and mystique as well.
Are you ever tempted to read someone else’s diary? What if you knew that they kept one? My soon to be released novel, The Alice Diaries, is just that, a series of diary entries from a middle aged woman named Alice, which got me thinking. Is the act of journal keeping a dying art?