Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Anniversaries

One of the best pieces of wiring advice I’ve read was from an unnamed poster on a news forum I visit.  He was a technical writer and said he doesn’t keep a blog or a diary as if those sap the writing he does for work.  Writing has a finite energy output.  Amen to that.  

If I’m writing in one format, I find I have a lot less energy for other outlets, like a blog, facebook, a journal. I’ve always envied those writers who could sit down and release page after page after page of material with little effort, for whom good writing was unforced and effortless.  Usually those kinds of writers end up in some combination of burned out, drunk, crazy and dead so I’ll accept my little war with paper and the keyboard for what it is.

Aside from this blog, I have some writing projects which come and go (usually go). I also keep a journal which celebrated its anniversary just a few days ago.  I started it when on the cusp of 16 and filled it it with the very badly written stuff you’d expect from a 15 year old.  Hey, we all can’t be a good writer as Anne Frank at that age.

In the almost 11,000 days since I’ve started it, my journal has been a place to confide and put a shape the issues I dealt with at various times.  It’s been a confidant, a sounding board, a commonplace book, a dream recorder, a record of my thoughts and creativity and a place for me to practice putting words together.  Mostly it’s been the impressionable record of various periods of my life (which makes it a journal rather than a diary - the daily record of events).

I reread occasionally, sometimes painfully on how badly written is can be.  Even after 3,000 plus pages it still is an imperfect autobiography with the occasional insight or clever phrase but after 30 years I am still wondering who I am writing for. Posterity? Myself? That nameless reader years from now?  I'm never sure.  Until I figure it out I guess I'll have to be my own audience.

(Right: the opening page of my journal for March 11th, 1999.  Poem: "here's to opening and upward" by e. e. cummings)

Recommendations of great diaries or books on diaries:
  • Thomas Mallon, A Book of One's Own
  • Pepys Diary - Samuel Pepys diaries from London in the 1660s.  Still very a very readable account of a likable social climbing, skirt chasing scoundrel. 
  • The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - millennia old musings and observations of a courtesan in the Japanese Imperial court.
  • Alec Guinness's very funny and well written diaries - Blessings in Disguise, My Name Escapes Me and A Positively Final Appearance.