Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys, the celebrated diarist

I keep a diary-cum- writing journal – it’s a lined hardback notebook and I write the date at the top of the page, spill out what’s in my head, and put the book to one side until I feel like more scribbling. A formal diary printed in page-per-day format would be too stern a taskmaster, making me feel guilty about leaving entire days blank.

But the notebook’s almost used up and I am wondering whether to continue in the same style. You see, I sometimes try writing as evocatively as I can about thoughts that have occurred to me or places I have visited. It’s a way of keeping my writing muscles in shape. But once on the page these musings sit uneasily with the more mundane ‘for the record’ detailing of what I’ve done in the past few days.

True, I could make my stuff about good meals and family news more literary in tone, but I don’t always have the time or inclination. It’s sometimes more comfortable to leave my writer’s hat hanging on its peg.

I avoid abbreviated note form, because it’s unattractive to look at, but there are times I just want to record that I ate supper in the garden on an unusually warm evening, or describe what I did at work that day, adding of-the-moment context with some current affairs news.

Maybe there’s no real perfect diary solution, other than to keep the recollections of purely personal interest to a bare minimum. I am quite attached to my current mix of personal doings and global context setting. I reckon that 40 years from now the most interesting entries to read will be those that bring back memories of what I was doing while something bigger was going on (though I might also smile at how much fuss was made at the time of soon forgotten politicians).

Will my writings give me pleasure 10 or 20 years hence? That should guide what I jot down.

And that’s also how we should approach blog-writing. We need to put some space between us and the blog: not in time (we can only write in the present), but in perspective. How will my blog look to someone who has never met me?

A personal touch is good, but this has to be balanced by universally interesting content.