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My Childhood Diary: A Young Writer's First Obsession

Keeping those vital secrets under lock and key!

By Steffany RitchiePublished 8 months ago Updated 8 months ago 4 min read
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My Childhood Diary: A Young Writer's First Obsession
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

I still remember my first diary. It was small yet chunky white pleather, with a colorful print of hearts and rollerskates (so 80s). The paper was lined and pleasingly slippery, with gold leaf edges. Most importantly, it was held together with a tiny lock and key.

This thrilled and comforted me. I was a quiet, deep thinker (so I thought) and I had so many secret feelings to express!

When I first received the diary as a birthday present, I diligently wrote all of my vital information on the front page, as well as a warning to anyone who might dare to read it to KEEP OUT! I felt self-important with power and full of many top-secret stories that the world was dying to read about. I was eight years old.

It all began so well, as with most writing projects. At first, I wrote down my daily habits and adventures regularly. I remember re-reading them and thinking they seemed disappointingly unimpressive and mundane.

Who cared what I had for lunch at school or whether my best friend was being annoying or if my teacher hated me? I know now this was an accurate foretelling of what life as a writer feels like most days. Grasping for meaning in the tedium of everyday life, trying and failing to convey feelings that I often don't quite have words for.

But being a somewhat determined young writer, I stuck at it. I learned a few important writer's tricks before long such as:

BOLD ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING THAT IS SUPER IMPORTANT! IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD DOESN'T IT?! ESPECIALLY WHEN BOYS AND TEACHERS ARE DUMB AND MEAN!

Also - Don't be shy with exclamation marks, or exclamations of joy and fury!!! EVERYTHING THAT FEELS SMALL OR UNACKNOWLEDGED BUT PAINFUL IN REAL LIFE FEELS BETTER WHEN WE YELL ABOUT IT ON THE PAGE!!!!

I also learned another important writer's trick - never forget, even if you pretend to forgive. Write that gossip and dirt down, in gory detail, for posterity.

But before long I only turned to it in tough times. Which again, was a precursor to life as a writer. The lonely, comforting written word is sometimes all there is to turn to for writers, even those who have lapsed as I have a few times in my life.

I wrote about the day my grandpa's dog died in some detail. I knew it mattered and should be recorded somehow. Beyond my own feelings of sadness, I wanted there to be a memory of that day. Brownie was hit by a car and my grandpa showed up at our door. I was the one to open the door and he was crying like a small boy. We buried her in our backyard.

I don't know if I would remember that day quite as well had I not written about it and re-read the story over the years.

It's possible this moment also opened the door in my mind where I realized it was ok to write about sad or scary things that didn't have a voice elsewhere.

My dad was an alcoholic, but I only touched on how unhappy this made me in veiled terms a couple of times. I either didn't have the words for how bad it was or felt too ashamed to write about the really tough stuff. Probably a combination of both.

My little journal lasted for several years. Largely abandoned as I approached adolescence, I would occasionally look at my childish scribblings about my dog or my endless devotion to Wham! or other silliness and feel terribly wisened and old.

The diary became an artifact. I moved onto large A4 notebooks as my words and problems grew, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of my first diary. It made me feel nostalgic. What had ever happened to my best friend who moved away? I still missed her sometimes.

I had no real concept of myself as a writer, but before long I would begin being singled out in English class, asked to read aloud, and making steady A's on most of my papers.

I believe this had more to do with my steady reading habit than my early and later journal scribbles. I became almost as sporadic a journal keeper in my teenage years and young adulthood as I had as a child.

No one would ever read my journals and think I was anything special as a writer. I never tried to impress my journals with big adjectives or cute conclusions or anything else a writer does for the pleasure of an audience.

They were largely a silent, non-judgemental shoulder to cry on over boys and other heart hurts. They were, as I believe possibly any true journal should be, deeply cringe-inducing on multiple levels.

To me, a journal is a soul's truest confession to the self. It's a writer's secret space, and not meant for prying eyes. So KEEP OUT!

Life
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About the Creator

Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I mostly write memoir, essays and pop culture things. I am a long-time American expat in Scotland.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran8 months ago

    Never forget, even if you pretend to forgive. I loved that line so much! It's so cool that you you still have your first diary!

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