I’m feeling a bit inspired this morning after watching a lovely little feature on BBC Breakfast about diary writing. As is the way with these things, I caught the end but it was enough to spark my interest. It was about how common diary writing used to be and how some children do still like to keep their own diaries.
I was a child of the Eighties and spent much the Nineties in a state of teen angst. The story books of my youth seemed to involve a lot of diaries. Most notably was of course Adrian Mole, but there seemed to be a lot of young adult fiction that involved the main heroines keeping their thoughts written down. I drank in books by Judy Blume and many of her characters kept diaries or just narrated their thoughts in their head. I can’t say I was in any way like her characters but I felt a connection to what I aspired to be. So, it isn’t surprising that I kept a diary for much of my younger years and probably more frequently during high school. And I think it also no surprise that my most prolific diary writing periods were linked to those times of teen angst. I wrote about everything in my life but mainly the boys I loved – including one boy called Joe who was the subject of the great unrequited love of 1991-93. That was tough. The high point of that non-relationship was making him dance with me at the school disco to Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. As well as my appalling love life, I wrote about songs I liked, books I read, friends I thought were fab, and girls at school who were mean.
I wish I had kept them but I destroyed them all towards the time I was heading off for university. I remember reading them and feeling a bit silly and embarrassed at the things I’d written. Of course if I read them now I would read them with a different head and probably feel a lot of empathy with that young girl.
So I wonder, how many of us still keep diaries? I’m certainly tempted to start again. One could argue that blogging is a form of diary writing, and to an extent it is, but there is one thing a diary is that a blog never can be – private. If you wish them too, diaries can contain every private and personal thought you ever have, every mistake you need to reflect on, every good moment you feel happy about and want to remember but not necessarily share with the world, and even every bit of mundanity in your life that you one day might want to look back on. They are a closed book, not for consumption by anybody else, just you. And in a world full of social media, sharing, scrutiny, online validation, and lives which, once private, are now so public, a closed book just for yourself is no bad thing.
The feature this morning explored how diaries might fit into the modern world, and how young people might be less inclined towards the practice their elders grew up with. The wonderful Dame Jacqueline Wilson, DBE, FRSL, was interviewed and felt that, on the contrary, there will always be a need for children to want to write down their thoughts and have that special experience of owning their own diary.
I wonder if readers keep a diary? I’d be interested to know if there are grown-ups out there who carried on. I have close family members who I know still do, and after today I think I’ll be adding another gift to my Christmas Wish List. My children are still too little to know about what diaries are and what they mean but I will watch this space to see if they follow suit when they are older.
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