I have never found myself able to keep a diary. Funnily enough, writing this weekly blog on whatever drifts across my consciousness is probably the closest I have ever gotten to that. I have often tried to write one, mainly to record places I have been, interesting things that I have seen, that sort of thing, and I have lost count of the times that I have started to write one, but it rarely lasts more than a couple of weeks, before it stutters and becomes erratic before dying once more. It is not that I get bored with my life or recording it; I quite like recording places visited as you tend to forget where you have been over time but the slightest confirmation that you have been to a place can often unlock the dormant memories of that experience. Possibly it is a symptom of my general lack of discipline which tends to exhibit itself as I slowly drift away from whatever it is towards something that looks more interesting.
Of course, then there is the whole question of who a diary or journal is for. I can entirely understand that if you are in the public eye for whatever reason, then maybe it is worth making some notes as you go along. Most of us do not have to worry too much about what we might say one day as normally we won’t be called out for inconsistency several weeks later; if you are well known then this is more likely to be something you need to address. And as any trip to a book discount store will prove there is always the autobiography or memoir to churn out at some point. If you have made copious notes, then that is going to come a bit easier. I was amused on reading the (very entertaining) memoir of Jeremy Paxman his admission in the foreword that much of the recollections therein came not so much from his memory or notes but from contributions of others that a better reflection of events; particularly amusing coming from a journalist.
Memoirs can be a dangerous thing to read, especially if it is written (or ghost written) by someone who you like or admire; you are never sure that you are not going to discover something that you would rather not have known about that individual. My preference is to go for people I think look interesting, that I not know much about their background and with whom I do not have any major investment to date. The Paxman book was a good example of that, and by the end of the book I had a lot more respect for the man than perhaps I would have had otherwise. I had a similar experience in reading the autobiography of cooking duo Si King and Dave Myers (otherwise known as the hairy Bikers) where I had no idea of the rough nature of their backgrounds and frank descriptions of the close shaves with death both had experienced over an eventful couple of lives. Oddly, and this is just coincidence, most of the autobiographies I have read recently seem to involve at least one brush with the Grim Reaper, seems to be a showbiz thing to have to survive accidents/cancer/brain tumours etc. etc. on the way to actual stardom. Not entirely sure it is worth it. But I guess they must mention it as life events go there is little more personal than your own life being in danger; even marriage or children, often side lined for their own safety in such books, involve others and are thus a shared experience.
I won’t ever be in the public eye (I hope) so my lack of diary is unlikely to hurt me later. My life is a good one overall, and the people most dear to me know what is going on in it most of the time anyway, so that is good enough for me. If I was to write an autobiography I would have an urge to make it up anyway, as what goes on in my head is – and I think many of us share this – far more interesting and better than reality anyway.
Today’s Soundtrack: Could have gone for the obvious, but I’m going for ‘Every Day I Write the Book’ by Elvis Costello