Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Diaries

From here.

Isn't it seductive, perching on a Great Writer's shoulders, privileged to watch the slow accrual of genius? Even the set backs, the struggles, are satisfying because the ending is a foregone conclusion. Art. Creation. Fame. And occasionally, even fortune. That's the allure of the writer's diary...the ability to observe a creative mind at work and play.

This is why, even if I became exceedingly famous (hey, a girl can dream), I'll never allow my diaries to be published.

For starters, you know that nascent seed of brilliance, carefully nurtured in the fertile soil of the diary? Yeah, not so much in mine. In my pages, I am barely literate, barely conscious, perhaps because usually I am barely awake. For the last couple of years, the only consistent diary I have kept are those morning pages recommended by Julia Cameron. Stream of consciousness pages that stream forth the way real, considered writing barely ever does. Picture me, propped against the kitchen counter, pushing pen against that pocket of resistant time. Words piling on words frantically until, inevitably...mama! Or a little hand comes to pull me away from the page, back into my life.

These are not the words I want to be remembered by.

And then there are my girlhood and adolescent diaries, where I freed myself to explore every obsessive enthusiasm without the fear that I was making anyone (i.e. my parents) nervous. When I loved or hated, much to their chagrin, I kept myself at a white hot pitch of excitement, stoking it with the words of all of my favorite writers. I loved like Scarlett O'Hara. I wrote like Jo March in a “vortex” (or wanted to). I wanted to experience what couldn't be put into words...and then write about it, like D. H. Lawrence. I told myself that I contained multitudes, like my beloved Whitman.

Unfortunately, like most adolescents, my diaries fluctuated between high-minded philosophical musings and boys, dreams for the future and boys, imitations of my favorite authors and boys. I wanted to be offbeat, not to care about teenage crushes. But I was depressingly normal in that way. I cared about my teenage crushes, passionately.

I can't see any of that as a worthy legacy.

Sometimes I do think about starting a writer's diary, using my life consciously as material for stories, as a way to practice my craft and observation skills. But, I shrink from having yet another place where I have to perform, where I can't just relax, be foolish, naïve, angry. Bad. I use my diary to dig, dig through the surface emotions, to try and find a deep breath between them. I don't want to become self-conscious there as well.

So, no, I won't ever publish any of my diaries, should I ever become famous enough for someone to ask. The diaries are all process, not product. My terrible handwriting is like the jagged lines of a lie detector—the pages keep me honest, but they don't really reflect what I would like to do as a writer. Hopefully, whatever work I manage to produce will speak for itself.

That being said, if the literary establishment is very insistent, I'll can always point them towards a certain blog...
To unlock more secrets in a diary, go here.



Blogger Becca said...

I have always loved reading writer's diaries, too, but like you, my morning pages are certainly not indicative of the way I'd like my life as a writer portrayed. However, I think they serve an even greater purpose in "clearing the cobwebs" (as Virginia Woolf put it) from my mind.

And yes, I think the record we leave in our blogs are the "Writer's Diaries" of the future!

Great post!

8:27 AM, August 19, 2007  
Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

For my creative writings, my blogs work just fine. In my leather bound diary, I am just being myself.

Interesting post.

8:47 AM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Remiman said...

It's for just such reasons that I don't keep a "secret" diary.

10:37 AM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Tammy said...

I love that my blog is my "writer's diary." I probably will never go further than my blog with out help. Your personal diary is good for your soul and no one needs to see it. Wonderful post!

10:50 AM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger wendy said...

you were beautifully normal. Sometimes to be like minded is to be in harmony.

world peace....and boys!

perfect teenage girl!

12:01 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Rob Kistner said...

Enjoyed reading your post! ;)

If anyone wanted to read my diary, if it existed, I'd have no qualms. I'd gladly throw it out there and let the world make of it what they will.

Doesn't affect me, and I'm not worried what others think. I can't control it anyway -- diary or no diary.

I would, of course, delete all the legally incriminating evidence... until after my death! ;)

1:05 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Kamsin said...

I personally am not a great fan of writers diaries, my theory is all the greatness in them only makes it there in retrospect. I'd rather read an writers work than their diary, which is weird as I love reading personal, diary-style blogs. But yeah, no one is a genius all the time.

2:28 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger sundaycynce said...

You expressed what you intended very well and clearly--many feelings that obviously quite a number of us have shared, ie. the preponderance of unextraordinary ideas that flow easily when we are uninspired but in need of personal outlet. Even more on the very positive side: you have a wonderful vocabulary, you seem able to express your ideas very specifically, and your ideas hit a resounding chord of recognition/identification for many of us.

4:17 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Herb Urban said...

Well said. If I kept a diary, I would keep it well hide as well. Some things are just not meant for public consumption. Great post, as always!

5:51 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Fledgling Poet said...

I have also tried the "stream of consciousness" writing recommended in The Artist's Way, and I would be mortified if anyone ever saw my mindless ramblings!! However, they definitely cleared my mind of all the clutter...

6:36 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Saoirse Redgrave said...

I enjoyed your post--and I like the idea of the diary being the process, not the product. I hope you get enough recognition you have to choose between potentially publishing them anyhow ;-)

Keep writing!

9:06 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger DJPare said...

True! THey can look here, to what I think is a quite impressive diary!


4:01 PM, August 20, 2007  
Blogger Alexandra S said...

I will second DJpare's comment that this here blog makes a WONDERFUL journal in itself. Truly. I dearly miss your blog and am just peeking in to read and say hello. Oh AND I got you a book I am pretty sure you are going to love so for the millionth time, can you send me your mailing address? I was a study refugee today at the bookstore and happened upon a gem for you, something that made me think of you instantly. I'm dozing off now...nighty night !

12:39 AM, August 21, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

I was never a diary keeper. Probably because I am a perfectionist, and for all the reasons you said, I would never want anyone to read it. Somehow, I never think of my blog as a diary or journal.


11:15 AM, August 22, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

I love this post and like you, I began writing morning pages ala The Artists Way some time ago, as did a friend of mine. We have a mutual pact that in the event of either of our deaths, we'll immediately confiscate the other's pages and destroy them! I do think our blogs tend to serve the purpose of a writer's diary -- something we've already established to be fit for public consumption. I still have some recorded adolescent angst, which I'd have been mortified for anyone to read at the time, but that I find pretty funny now.

12:20 PM, August 22, 2007  
Blogger Melba said...

I have all my journals. I know some people want their journals burned, but I always thought they would be nice for Maggie to read or maybe...
when I am daydreaming the Public will want to know my thoughts. Recently though I have realized there is LOTS of whinning in my journals and so much stuff that I don't believe in or represent me. But it is all part of me.

always making me think!

4:11 PM, August 22, 2007  
Anonymous fern said...

I have been neglecting my journaling lately. I've always enjoyed rereading my entries, because I'm always thoroughly surprised by how often I have experienced such seemingly new, intense feelings before.
I'm also quite a worrier, as you know, so reading my previous entries from a year ago detailing my suspicions that Bozo, the circus clown was stalking me, is quite a comfort.
Thanks so much for this insightful, smart entry!

11:28 PM, August 22, 2007  

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