Are you put off by diary (or journal) writing, because it feels pointless to write something nobody will ever read?
Or maybe you don’t feel talented enough to write a regular diary?
Both of these reasons might seem strange at first glance. But in this age of constant social media updates, blogging, and online presence-ness, it can feel like there’s no longer a need for private diary-keeping.
Particularly when we’re always being told to share our stories with the world; that by openly talking and writing about our lives (preferably in a charming and dazzlingly charismatic manner), we can connect with other people.
Which is all well and good, but what about that all-important connection with yourself?
Write like nobody’s reading
I’ve kept a private diary ever since I was eight (the first sentence I wrote in the first one goes, “if I was a ghost, I’d only haunt horrible people so I could try to make them good. I wouldn’t just scare people even though that would be funny.”)
I’ve noticed that as the years passed by, and blogging became a ‘thing’, I gradually transferred my ramblings to the screen. Of course, this means they need to be preened, plucked, and polished for an unknown readership.
That readership has to understand what I’m rambling about… there must be a coherent, relatable story that they might also find interesting. I also can’t gossip about, or cast slurs on, my friends and family (not that I would anyway, honest!) and I can’t slander any celebrities, just in case.
But when I open my diary, I can write whatever I want. I don’t have to be nice, I don’t have to be funny or interesting, and none of it has to make sense to a random stranger reading on the bus.
Not only does this feel intensely liberating – like breathing out slowly, feeling my shoulders relax, then letting my mind drift into a clear blue sky – it also helps me articulate and understand my inner world without fear of scrutiny, or a nasty below-the-line comment.
(No-one’s going to read it… and anyway if they do, they can’t tell me they did, because then they’ll also have to admit to reading someone else’s private diary, which is a moral crime punishable by shame, and eventually, death.)
Don’t set too many diary-keeping rules (or you probably won’t do it)
Happily, the process of private diary-keeping is pretty simple: find something nice and clean to write in, and let your mind guide a pen across its pages.
Tip: I’ve found that buying a diary with dates adds extra pressure to write something every day. Buying a notebook or journal instead means you can date each entry yourself, and not be blinded by a sheaf of blank pages that, just like a nagging Mum, only remind you of all the times you didn’t write.
Because you really don’t have to write in your diary every day. I treat mine like a friend who’s willing to listen when I’m ready to talk, and I can go for months without needing to.
A little extra help…
If you feel like you need some help getting back in touch with yourself, I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages technique.
This simply involves writing three pages every morning, just after you’ve woken up. That part is important, because you’re allowing your mind to flow before the distractions of the day can take hold.
The only rules of Morning Pages are, don’t overthink, and keep your pen moving until you’ve filled three pages… if you can’t think of anything to write, write about that!
As for me, I’ll continue steadily growing my pile of diaries. It’s getting harder and harder to find somewhere to store them all, but I’m hoping that one day, they can be used as kindling when I’m old and I haven’t got enough money to heat my house.
Because I definitely don’t want them getting discovered after I’m gone.