Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More on diaries (commenting on the comments)

So Danielle from A Work in Progress wrote this comment yesterday that intrigued me:

I have always been afraid to keep a diary. Either the contents would be so boring that anyone reading it would be bored to tears, or so private that I would hate for anyone to read it. Do you think diarists really do keep these journals only "for their own eyes"? Or do you think a part of them writes for some later unknown reader? And does that affect how they write and the contents?

I have tried a lot of times to keep a private journal. I’d succeed for a while, and then would write less and less and finally stop entirely. I always blamed my laziness for this. I was partly right, I suppose. Now that I think about it, I’m lazy about journal writing in the same way I’m lazy about cycling, which is to say, not lazy at all if I have the right motivation. If my husband didn’t ride, I probably wouldn’t either. I can consider this a failing, or I can just realize that riding my bike as much as I do is hard, and be thankful my husband rides too. And about the journal – I wonder if I didn’t keep it up because I had to do it by myself, and if, now that I’ve turned to blogging, I’m more likely to keep up the blogging because I have you all around to motive me. I admire people who can write journals regularly and not succumb to my kind of laziness, but I’m not like that.

But back to Danielle’s comment – I wonder if part of my problem with writing a journal came from an uncertainty about audience. Do diarists write for themselves alone? It seems to me that all diarists must have in the backs of their minds at least the possibility that people will read them, sneaking peaks while they are alive or reading them in some slightly more legitimate way after they are dead. I always knew – not that I’d become famous and people would read my diary wanting to understand the “real me” better – but that someone I knew might read the thing. That made any serious personal revelations difficult. If I tried to forget that and just write for myself, I would get self-conscious about it. It was me there, trying to put me on the page, with me as the reader, and that was just too much me around. Writing felt strained and awkward. And re-reading what I wrote was painful. I never found a way to be honest and never found a voice I was happy with, which is what I think I wanted from the journal. I’m curious what you real diarists out there make of this.

So I’m wondering if blogging might help me solve my audience problem. I mean, I’m not planning on writing anything all that personal (don’t worry!), so I won’t get that satisfaction out of the blog, but I will be able to write my thoughts on books and this and that and have an audience out there besides me. You all will help me legitimize my writing to myself. Isn’t this weird? One would think dealing with the issue of audience would be easier in a private journal than a public blog, right? I thought I would resolve what I thought about Danielle’s comment in this post, but I end up more uncertain. I guess what it comes down to is that for me, knowing there are readers out there does affect what and how I write, and I’m better off writing a blog where I can deal with that directly than a diary, where the audience issues overwhelm me.

Maybe this post is just a not-so-subtle way to guilt you into reading me?