I've always said I'm not really a diary keeper. I think of myself as having made a few brief attempts at diaries over the years, and quickly abandoning them. But in the course of cleaning out my writing office, I've discovered many notebooks--many more than I remembered--with diary fragments in them. I've made a "diary" pile with which I will do--something at some point. I don't know what.
Just glancing through them, I can tell that there are three kinds of times in my life when I keep diaries:
1) When something I perceive as historically momentous is occurring. (9/11, for example)
2) When I'm traveling and want to remember the new settings through which I'm moving.
3) At times of emotional upheaval and angst.
I have one diary of Type 1, and random fragments of the other two types
scattered throughout several notebooks. Type 3 is the most embarrassing
and the type I would most like to send to the shredder. Pages and pages
of moaning over why some long-forgotten crush did not seem to return my
interest; pages analyzing his every expression, word, gesture, and
eyebrow twitch; pages dreading (and trying to head off) break-ups that I
could see looming. When I read Type 3, I'm mostly relieved to be done
with the roller-coaster relationships of my teens and early twenties.
diaries give a very distorted picture of my life, because I kept them
only when I was trying to remember something unusually important
(travel, history), or when I was trying to analyze a miserable patch in
my life. The times when I was happy and busy with ordinary pursuits, I
didn't need the record or the reflection that a diary provides.
are diarists who can do the "happy ordinary" diary well, who can write
about daily life and keep it interesting. They can reflect on a variety
of life events, not just the crises. But ultimately, diaries do what we
need them to do at the moment. Sometimes they preserve an important
moment, and sometimes they help us get through a moment and leave it