That got me thinking about diaries. Do you keep a diary? Have you ever kept one? I have not. When I was a child I was given a shiny new diary for Christmas, complete with lock and key. On January first I started to write. "Nothing much happened today. Raining. Shepherd's pie for dinner."
Then on January 2 I wrote, "Still raining. Go back to school in three days."
By about January 10 nothing worth noting had happened so I gave up.
The only time I have actually kept a diary has been when I've been traveling. And then it's purely factual and usually food-centered. "Went to the art museum in Vienna today. Had open-faced egg sandwich for lunch. Had pork cutlets and red cabbage for dinner. Good." Nothing about what paintings impressed me, what I felt. Reading those pages you'd never believe that I might grow up to be a writer!
Over the years I have tried several times to pour out my innermost feelings onto the pages of journals, but I simply can't do it. I cannot put my feelings onto paper. When I've attended workshops where I am asked to relive a time of sadness or anger I find it almost impossible to put down the words. I suppose I'm a private person and I don't want to share my feelings.
This maybe why I write fiction. My characters can express feelings that I really mine, but sufficiently removed that they do not upset or embarrass me. My kids, on the other hand, are all big on journaling. They fill journal after journal with deep innermost thoughts. Not that I've ever read them. I wouldn't snoop. Maybe if I'd grown up with a sister I would have snooped in her diary, but alas I only had a brother, seven years younger than me.
So now I'm curious, Reds. Did you keep a diary when you were growing up? Do you now?
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm with you Rhys, not a diary or journal writer--and for many of the same reasons--the few times I tried it was beyond tedious. As a young teen, my family took a 6 week trip across the country and my father induced all four of us kids to keep journals. I still have that one--with postcards affixed to very dull stories with absolutely no insight into my inner life. I can't put my hands on it right now or I'd show you a picture. During grad school in clinical psychology and for several years after I spent many hours in therapy. Which was a wonderful, growth-inducing process. But my gosh, after yammering about my feelings and my life in great detail, I certainly wasn't interested in writing it all down too!
My sister, on the other hand, has kept journals for years. And they are invaluable as she writes essays and memoir. I'm envious that I don't have my own memories captured...
HALLIE EPHRON: I'm so jealous of anyone who did keep a diary. I remember starting diaries I got for Christmas and within a few days giving up. My husband is a terrific journaler--we have a travel journal that he's been keeping since 1969. We've kept journals on both of our kids. Here's part of my first entry from when my firstborn was 10 weeks old: "Last night Molly slept from 10 pm feeding until 6 am. A truly historic event! She's all smiley now and finds her thumb all the time. She loves to be sung to and loves it when we blow in he face or whistle." I don't know why Molly (the now grown-up) doesn't find this fascinating but she does not.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yeah, I kept a diary for a while, in the 80's. That's how we know about the teabag. I am telling you, it is..painful. Painfully boring. No philosophy, no nuance, nothing thoughtful. I think there must be a skill to journalling. Some sort of a way, if you learn how to do it, to plumb your brain and emotions. And learn something. But wow. If you try to write just before you fall asleep, which is the obvious time, sleep is so much more attractive. My diary entries, for the most part, are like...lists. Which brings up another thought--my to-do lists are more like diaries. And WAY more interesting. I really think I simply don't know how to do it. I know there are so many things I forget, and diaries are good for that. One word, even, in my calendar, would be worthwhile. And often, i do that. But really, in the end, would anyone care?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I don't know, Hank. Samuel Pepys may have thought the same thing about his diaries, and look how that turned out. Like the rest of you, I'm not a diarist except for special occasions. I also got the little book with lock and key like Rhys, wrote in it four or five times, and gave up. Let's face it, if you're having a happy childhood, there's not much to write about.
When we lived in Germany, my mother made me journal during our trips around Europe. Thanks, Mom! And when I went to school in London, a journal was required - and again, I'm so thankful, because mine has so many events and jokes and feelings I would have forgotten otherwise. Then, when my late father-in-law took me and Ross on safari in sub-Saharan Africa, I kept a journal. There was almost TOO much to write about every evening!
But day-to-day? Get up, write, clean, cook, walk the dog, play Mah Jong online. And so to bed.
HANK: I did keep a journal, ish, on my first and second book tours. Scribbles, writing as fast as I could. But very valuable, looking back now. It seemed like something I didn't want to forget. I made myself write during takeoff. And you know, that was a good idea.
RHYS :I've been thinking about famous diaries. Anne Frank's, for example. We'd never have known about her shining spirit if she hadn't. And I've just realized something: we all blog. That is keeping a diary in a way, isn't it? So dear readers, have you ever kept a diary? Do you now? Any tips on good journal writing?