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My Life in Letters

October 8th, 2014

Diary-blogDo you keep a diary? I used to. When I was in my twenties I thought it was the sort of thing a writer should do, so I made sure I always had an A5 hardback notebook to hand. This was my journal and in it, every day (sometimes two or three times a day) I recorded my activities, my observations and my innermost feelings. At some point, I thought, I’ll turn all this into a play, or a novel or a whole stack of poems.

But then, one day, shortly after being dumped by a girlfriend I’d been particularly attached to, I left one of these notebooks on a train – went off into town and didn’t realize it was gone until some two hours later. Aaaaagghh!! How could I do that? What if someone I knew found it? What if she found it? It was full of … drivel.

I gave up on journals after that. I still try to write every day, but it’s songs and stories for me now. Though I wish it were otherwise. I can still see how diaries help gather stories and characters. The triumphs and tragedies of daily life are meat and drink to a writer, so if I could find a way of recording mine without drifting off into introspective gibberish, I would. Some diaries even become important historical documents, like those of Samuel Pepys. His eye-witness accounts of the great plague of 1665 and the following year’s great fire of London are invaluable to historians, writers, artists, anyone trying to get an idea of what it felt like to be there at the time of those terrible calamities.

But even Pepys diaries make me a bit nervous. I mean, he didn’t just write about the momentous events of his time. He also went into shockingly frank detail about his private life, recording, amongst other things, a series of extra-marital encounters including one incident when his wife, Elisabeth, walked in on him and the maid, Deborah Willet, in such a compromising position I can’t possibly go into the details here.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m just an old prude. But if people are going to remember me in years to come, I think I’d like to pick and choose a bit amongst the things they’re allowed to remember. Maybe I’ll stick to fiction.

Keep on writing!

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