“January 1st: I have decided to keep a journal of my thoughts and deeds over the coming year. A daily chart of my progress through the echelons of command, so that perhaps one day other aspiring officers may seek enlightenment through these pages. It is my fond hope that, one day, this journal will take its place alongside Napoleon’s War Diaries and The Memoirs of Julius Caesar.”
Next entry… “July 17th: Auntie Maggie’s Birthday.”’
From the diary of Arnold Judas Rimmer BSC SSC.
I find something sinister and suspicious about veracious and voracious journal-keepers. We’ve all been there, I’m sure, as the calendar year wanes, in the aisles of WH Smith, weighing up the red faux-leather volume in our hands, leafing through its blank, neatly lined pages, wondering if we’ll have the willpower to count off the days, one by one, and fill them with our thoughts, deeds and confessions. Yes, we tell ourselves.
Who are we fooling? The same person we are writing for: ourselves.
That’s where I think the idea of diary writing falls down. Who, exactly, are we trying to impress. Diaries written entirely for the self are no more than a very arduous form of masturbation, and diarists, in my experience, are consequently very tedious wankers. They’re introverted, pseudo-intellectuals, with more self-reflection than a hall of mirrors, sharing their innermost with a few ounces of tree pulp because no one in the real world would understand them.
Unless we’re writing with the aim of eventual publication in the form of a memoir – which I find self defeating, as we can never be truly honest when we know someone will read our scribblings – what exactly is the point? We might as well keep those thoughts in our heads, and, if you’ve gone to the extent of buying a diary, imagining you’re going to keep at it for the whole year, your head is probably big enough to keep them all in anyway.
But the twenty-first century has provided the perfect platform for the would-be diarist who usually stumbles at the first hurdle when committing to regular writing: The Blog.
The Blog fills a gap – one of those gaps you didn’t know existed until someone filled it, like a piece of physics-defying parallel parking – somewhere between the lonely pursuit of a diary and the published opinions of columnists. You can guarantee, no matter how obscure or vague your subject, interests, opinions or even your grasp of spelling and grammar, there will be someone, somewhere in the world who will be willing to read your offerings.
Maybe this all seems very obvious to you, the veteran blogger, but what you’re reading right now is my first ever blog. Yes, even I, who has never got beyond the first week in a diary, have now been dragged kicking and screaming (why are people always dragged kicking and screaming? Why can they not be coerced with a kind word and a biscuit?) towards the idea of putting my thoughts into pleasing, well punctuated sentences, and pasting them into the text field of a public blog on a regular basis. This is January the first: the first blank page in a faux-leather bound life, metaphorically speaking. My new year’s resolution: to be honest – to a point – irreverent, intelligent, interesting (hopefully), informative, and, most importantly, to fill those metaphorical pages.
So, why did I decided to take to my typewriter – well, start up a word processing program, but the idea of a writer with a solid, old fashioned black typewriter is so much more romantic – and share my thoughts with you? Well, a number of reasons. Firstly, because a friend asked me to. Why she thought me qualified, I couldn’t tell you. Ask her. Secondly, because there is something in all of us that believes they are a writer – it’s said that everybody has a book in them, and, some would observe, it should stay there. Thirdly, because the opinions, political leanings, social standing and general outlook on life of my fellow bloggers, are compatible with my own. Fourthly, and finally, because there is always the possibility of positive feedback – something any creative type craves. I desire validation, as, I suspect, do most writers. That is why I have never succeeded in maintaining a diary, because I need that person reading over my shoulder.
Will I keep it up? Who knows? Wish me luck, and keep looking over my shoulder, and maybe I’ll write out of the sheer embarrassment of having you there, breathing down my neck.