Reflections on the concept of "diary" and why it's important to write our own truths
I can’t believe the nerve. Of me. Who do I think I am? Why would my thoughts, feelings, actions be worth preserving here? I stop every few hours in another coffee shop or bar to catalog my every movement like it mattered as if anyone will ever read it. It isn’t interesting or important in the slightest way.
Sometimes I feel: everybody has these insignificant thoughts, they don’t need my versions of them. There is nothing here worth preserving. Even me, the future of me, looking backward in time and reading all of this won’t care. Too prosaic. Too convoluted. Then I remember, every word and thought is valueable.
I read an interview with a poet, a writer I admire. She said that there should be age restrictions on who gets to write a memoir because a memoir needs perspective. Without the proper distance, the writer is too inside the events they are describing. They are refusing to accept the ending by delaying it. There is nothing worth writing about until they have truly become the person formed by the events. Ruminating on it all too early after, or during, is to hide from the inevitable ending. The writer loses their existence as a person. They refuse to engage in their life and become an observer. A non-being. Nobody.
I always have been terrible at recognizing endings even when they are happening. I, too, excel at refusing to become anything or anyone worth noticing. As a forever observer, I need to keep track of everything however banal. It's the only way I can remember that I'm actually alive.
The word, and concept of, “diarist” is so peculiar. Someone, usually an explorer, traveller, person of high regard, catalog their life daily in a diary.
What is a diary? Why that word?
Define it. Define log. Define catalog, chronology, timeline, datebook, memorandum. How about journal? I'd prefer to be a journalist, but the implications of that word--its prestige, its certainty. I am a diarist. I am uncertain but true. I can only say what I know and am unashamed of what I don't.
I love an exhibit I saw of a particular diarist who detailed his encounters on an island in the South Pacific. He drew the flora, fauna, and landscapes of the tropical isle. There were also accounts of his journey across the ocean, the damage to his ship, and the "savages" he encountered—or so he claimed. The museum also showcased work done by a modern historian who showed how none of his stories could possibly be true. The timeline, the places he cited did not line up with reality. The Diarist was a liar.
I promise not to lie. I promise not to lie. I promise not to lie.
The diary is kept secret. A journal was always written with the intent to be shared, or the hope to be. A diary is personal, more apt to fabrication, whereas a journal strives towards the absolute. A journalist, striving towards objectivity.
Show me your diary. A child keeps it under lock and key, secret. Too many feelings to bear. I kept a diary when I was a child, but I only wrote in it when I was angry. My stepmother read it and scolded me. My perception, my anger, and my stories were not true to her. When is a story ever true to everyone?
When does a diarist allow theirs to be read and by whom? I think the truth is the truth is the truth and if we don't write it down, how will we ever remember?
*****I wrote this as a warmup to work on my novel in 2017--my novel is told in a diary form by a young person and their ancestors on The Bowery. Still in progress but if any one's interested in hearing more feel free to reach out to me on social media! I'm starting this as a series and plan on keeping journal entries on Vocal, and interviewing other diarists! Also reach out if you're interested in being interviewed!*****