There is a project being led by Michael Palin, with the BBC, about diary writing. It raised some interesting issues for me and so I decided to check back as to when I began writing a daily diary. I was shocked to find that it was January 1996, twenty years.
The project seems to be asking diarists to divulge some of their writings and offers an email address for you to submit some details to see if they are interested. I wrote an email the contents of which are below,
In all honesty agreeing to divulge information from my diary makes me nervous but I thought that I would share some information which may answer some of your points and be of use.
I began writing my diary on 1st January 1996 – twenty years ago. (Until I looked it up I hadn’t realised it had been that long). I remember that I began writing it because I wanted to write my first novel and read some advice at the time that suggested writing daily, no matter what it was, begins to exercise that writing muscle. The quality of my diary writing has improved from what was a chronological account of life events which would be of little interest to anyone, but has evolved to include opinions, feelings and records of world events. Even so what is a 'world event' to me would be small beer to someone else.
So I became a novelist, self-published, to date 10 novels and two slim collections of original poetry. I also blog daily mostly, on writing process and about current affairs.
If I was to divulge the most important or personal entry it would have to be about life traumas such as divorce, depression, or the joy of the birth of a grandson, but in that there is a problem. The purpose of writing my diary while suffering clinical depression was therapeutic and as such is linked with my psyche. When writing about family and friends that would be for no one’s eyes other than mine.
The carrot that is dangled to encourage participation is the fact that Palin had opened up his own diaries in part, about 25%, and if you decide to take part, can divulge information anonymously.
Diary writing is, in my opinion, not for an audience unless specifically stated to be so.
You may ask why bother?
Who are my diaries for?
Well that is quite simple - my children.
Will they enjoy what they see in between the covers?
Probably not as life is not straight forward. I haven't had a bad life at all, but everyone has times that are not always best remembered, but it may help them to understand who their father was once I'm gone.
That may seem a strange thing to write but in response I would ask how well do we know our parents?
If we are brutally honest, what we know of their lives before we are born is second hand knowledge and that is often tempered to protect both the parents and the children. So my eldest son was born when I was 29 years old and all he knows of those almost three decades, are the bits I or my relatives have related to him. The two younger children may know a little more because of the oldest one of them.
We know these things because of our own histories. My father was 31 when I was born; he'd have been accurately described as one of the baby boomers after the first war; he was involved in the second as a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer; he was taken off the French beach at Dunkirk; and, there his war record ends! There's more to the man but either I have chosen not to disclose more or I don't know. Another reason for writing a diary.
If you are a writer then I would say it is a must to be a diarist then even if you don't publish your biography, someone else may do at a later date. It also encourages you to make decisions about what to write about and what to leave alone which we have to do when writing stories.
What I would say is to write it as if it will never be read again.