I thought it would become a slog, but I love this goal. I write everyday with colourful pens, and I like myself better too. I am nicer to myself.
Through the diary I narrate and can alter the way I narrate my life and emotions. The page isn’t paper but a space to explore.
My 2011 diary had smaller entry boxes (a week spread across two A4 pages as opposed to the day-to-a-page diary I use now). The length has made writing both easier and more enjoyable. You can just start and see what grows. In a smaller diary you have to have already boiled down what you what to say. It’s less satisfying. The exploration is the most important part, and for that you need room.
Using colours also makes a big difference. I don’t feel like black ink inside, I feel orange and red and pink and blue and grey and purple and green. It’s not just what I say, but the colours I say it in that matter too. The colours don’t have any particular meaning in themselves, but they show something about who I am. I might be in the doldrums of anxiety or illness, or writing sternly about taught or hurt feelings, but I still want the colours behind the hardship to show.
Using actual colours to do this makes me feel less self-conscious. Writing in optimistic orange allows me to be more honest about some brittle pessimism, and I can let it go. I don’t have to pretend. I can be more present.
Speaking of the present, finding my old diaries helped a lot. I thought finding them would also make it more difficult to keep diarying, because I was embarrassed to find them and didn’t want to read them. Instead, the future-me that had been peering over my shoulder for months stepped aside (and in doing so gave me even more room).
My writing time is diluted and I have a backlog of ideas for 43Things. The trick is to find the time to trap those ideas in the moment before they move on!
Where I was expecting to find old pens, cards and stickers, I found six old diaries stacked together in a box in my room.
Two of the diaries I remember well; I wrote them during six months that bubbled with creativity and optimism. The notebooks were gifts from my grandparents, and I wrote in them with colourful tutti frutti pens. One blandly covered diary I regarded like an acquaintance who’s name I’d forgotten. I thought it’d be blank. When it started “talking” I immediately recognised it as an old dream diary. The contents flooded back into my consciousness as a river of castles, giant fishes, talking pigs and war-torn letters. The last two I didn’t remember at all. They were written hesitantly in pencil, as if I could only say what was on my mind if I could rub it out at a later date. These diaries were written after the others, when I was struggling with depression.
No diary was dated. I regret that now. I remember ignoring dates as if they didn’t matter, as if time wasn’t a reality despite the anxiety it often caused me. Holding the notebooks caused my stomach to tingle unpleasantly, and I crammed them back into their box.
The only diary I was unnerved by was the dream diary; it was about things that had happened, albeit while I was asleep. The other diaries weren’t about things. They were about thoughts and feelings, and I cringed at the pages. They made me nervous. They made the perfectionist in me put on its glasses and reach for its red editor’s pen.
In a way, these diaries don’t belong to me. They belong to the me of the past. Maybe I shouldn’t read “her” diaries just as I shouldn’t read anyone’s private journal, but then again maybe I should stop being so anxious about and dividing of myself. I have so many eyes looking over my shoulders. When I write I feel the eyes of the future peering over me (my eyes, or the eyes of someone I know).
Something I’ve realised about journalling is that it’s an exercise in being present. You have to try to ignore or close the eyes on your shoulder and just let the snout of the pen snuffle across the page and leave whatever words it wants to trace.