Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reading over, reading back

For most of last year, I faithfully kept a journal. I didn't write in it every day, but I made a concerted effort towards putting my thoughts and observations down on paper (yes, paper; not screen). There were off days - even weeks - when I didn't write a thing and hid the journal from myself so I didn't feel guilty about my slacking off.

At intervals, I wondered how I'd ever be able to find anything if I should want it later. I devised a method by which quick ideas, lines I wanted to use in poems and so on, could be identified. All obvious strategies, but not having kept a journal in years, I needed to reinvent the wheel.

As it happened, I never looked at anything I wrote again. Until this morning. I wasn't looking for anything specific; I was idling through those old pages. I admired my writing which, out of respect for this shiny new object called a journal, was immaculate; I noticed mood shifts and how they related to gaps in writing days; I noticed I'd left myself allusions to things I refused to even put on paper at the time of writing.

It was and is an interesting snapshot of a person at a moment in time. If I was anyone of any importance, I could imagine that my journals would be an invaluable resource. I realised afresh, that I would have to devise a time frame and method by which this object could be destroyed before it found its way to other people.

If reading over and reading back casual writing can make me squirm - as it invariably does - then it can only be useful as catharsis*. Yes? Or am I to understand by it that I shouldn't be so involved with and tied to the production of my persona? Sometimes I feel one way and sometimes another. (I also know that while I might leave the blog be, I will definitely destroy the journals.)

What do you lot think?  


*It occurred to me that photographs also make me squirm. The closer in time they are to the present, the more I dislike them for not coinciding exactly with my self-image. For instance, I can now look at the big hair, big glasses and pleated jeans and the quantities of plastic jewellery of my teen years and not turn a hair, horrific though those images are. I've never kept any letters I wrote from that era - that is to say, the parents didn't - so I have no way of knowing how I'd react to words from another decade. I suspect I'd be tolerant enough. 

Call no woman happy until.


km said...

then it can only be useful as catharsis*.

"Cathartic diary entries + Time = Entertainment" :)

I used to be a fairly consistent journal writer. But I realized over time that my journal was only serving as a snapshot of my - pardon the pomposity - inner landscape. This struck me as monotonous, a little bit narcissistic (and seemed to have little archival value).

It was not very surprising to me that the documentation of my adult life was not compelling in that "look how weird and awkward I was back then" way, like my high-school journals.

But I think I'm going to keep those diaries for a few more years. If they don't so much as evoke a chuckle then, off they go into the shredder.

david jairaj said...

"the moving hand writes..." blah. you know the drift :-)

why should there be a favoring towards sharing things that make us proud or laugh? isn't a squirm or a cringe as good a response? does not the NOW encompass what HAS BEEN?

but if one is inclined to destroy, one ought to express it.

allow me a little expression of my own:

my wishes
without wings
like pigs
dirty things
very gladly
have made my heart a sty
only sadly
to escape my lips and die

if expression is death
of our dearest breath
should we exhale
its delicate tale
or quietly bear
its weight within?

i think you should publish it. one way or another. it's what a writer does best - to share with another the intimate impulses of the mind. selflessly.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know that squirming myself, words, photos, diaries. I keep going back to writing by hand every now and then, but can't keep it up for long. Somehow when I write in a journal, the words and the emotions are too raw. They make me feel uncomfortable afterwards.

??! said...

Does not the act of writing itself, and knowing that it will someday be read (even if only by you), subconsciously affect the content? How much of it is tailored, keeping in mind the eventual audience, and how much is really honest?