This post doesn’t actually come under the theme of school or anything I’ve been discussing... I suppose it’s to do with stress-busting which is important for school days, but in reality I just really fancied writing about keeping a diary.
I’ve always had problems with keeping a diary, but for some reason it’s always been part of my life. No matter how many crumpled notebooks I’d find under my bed three months after leaving them there, no matter how many times I’d start fresh and waste a whole pretty diary with two days’ worth of copious notes on what the weather was like, what I ate for breakfast—why does nothing interesting happen when you have time to write about it?—and goodness knows what else before never even looking at it again.
I suppose it’s something a lot of us feel is necessary: I must improve my lifestyle and this will help. We all feel this way about exercise and healthy eating (more on my ongoing battle later: I recently purchased a skipping rope), perhaps making an effort on our hair etc for school (that was fun while it lasted, on both the first and second days...) But I’ve realised recently: why put pressure on myself to keep a diary? Why put any unnecessary pressure on myself when I have The Leaving Cert *shudder* next year? I don’t really know why I find it necessary to keep diaries, but I always do and recently I’ve found a pressure-free way of keeping one so I get all the benefit with none of the bother. Before I tell you all about that, however, I want to write a bit about The Ghosts of Diaries Past...
I’ve had so many diaries, for as long as I can remember. When I lived at my old house, I would decorate whole folders with cut-out pieces of newspaper spelling out my name and write about all my friends and family, what I did at school... these were largely positive. Maybe occasionally I’d have had a fight with my best friend or I’d worry about being fat—even at age 5—or I’d be mad at my parents for reasons which I’m sure were perfectly reasonable at the time. But for the most part, I’d write about how lovely my life was, how many friends I had, even try to make my five-to-eight-year-old self sound cool.
After I moved, about a year later in my second year of secondary school I began to write another diary which, looking back, I’m fairly impressed by. Not by the subject matter or style, but by the sheer copiousness of my updates. Reading back, I suppose it’s because I needed it. I describe being both physically and verbally bullied, how I didn’t feel like I had any friends... as I read it I want to yell at the girl in the book: “Tell ‘em to stop... speak up, dammit!” At the same time I’m thinking, gosh, I’d forgotten things were that bad... I suppose I thought writing about my problems was the only way to solve them, and I notice that the more fiction I was writing, the less I was filling in the diary—I had found another outlet. Eventually, the diary stops, at a time when I was making a few more friends...
The next “volume” depicts me trying to change myself and trying to be someone I really wasn’t, so the first time I read over it I felt quite ashamed of myself. Now, though, it almost makes me smile. I read about myself learning and making the silliest of mistakes, but from the place I’m in now it makes me feel so glad I messed up in those stupid ways... because it’s safe to say I learned my lesson and both the diary and my fiction writing helped me to do that.
Right now, especially with my blog, I’m getting quite enough writing done. However there are still some things I feel I want to write about in a diary. But there’s something about writing to nothing, to something nameless which is never going to say anything back, which doesn’t feel beneficial at all... also, what is it about a diary that makes us feel the need to explain everything, as if it’s a stranger? Am I the only one who can’t write about one of my friends without having to explain who he or she is? It’s ridiculous.
My solution is a bit of an odd one, and perhaps it will only work for writers, but in the end I think everyone has an imagination and you’re very welcome to try it no matter who you are. It really works for me.
I’ve always loved making up stories and when I was very young I had the most vivid imaginary friend that you could ever... well, imagine. But since I was about twelve, writing’s become more and more central in my life and I now have a huge and varied stock of characters to dig out whenever I choose. They each have very different qualities and opinions, and since I know everything about them I’ve decided they know me inside out, too. So whenever I have something to write about: a strong opinion I’m worried nobody would understand, or something personal that’s bothering me... I can choose a character to write to. I tell them all about it and I can almost imagine what they’d say to me. It’s a great way to de-stress and unwind, get all my thoughts down on paper, without the worry of “oh the diary doesn’t care” or “oh the diary won’t understand” or “what good will writing about it do?”
Since I started writing for an actual audience—hi there—I find I get so much more out of it. It’s the same with this little book Crow gave me: a book to fill in when you can’t sleep. You write about your thoughts before you fall asleep, your weirdest dreams, things you need to do... I’ve decided that once I fill it in, I’m going to give it back to Crow to read. It’s a wonderful feeling when you write something and think: “this will get a laugh” or “this is going to be interesting.”
Writing is a really personal thing and you never have to show anyone what you write unless you feel comfortable and ready... but I’ve found just writing to someone makes it seem more real, more worthwhile... even if that someone is a figment of your imagination.