Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Dear Diary

    I wonder how many young girls wrote that salutation   in a vinyl covered diary each night before going to bed, then proceeded to write their most secret thoughts, hopes and dreams. Perhaps they shared the moments of their day, or frustration in things not going as planned.   For some, diaries became a treasured, trusted friend to tell all to, knowing judgment would not be made, but a companion where strict confidence was kept. 

    By definition, diary is a daily record, especially a personal record of events, experiences, and observations; a book for keeping a record, a journal   - coming from the Latin, diarium.

    According to M.H. Abrams book, A Glossary of Literary Terms, diary or journal is the day to day record of the events in one’s life that the author has known or witnessed, written for personal use and satisfaction with little or no thought of publication.  Examples like  the 17th century Samuel Pepys come to mind, and The Diary of Anne Frank – hers being one of the most famous diaries, depicting a life in hiding during World War II.

    Another acclaimed  diarist was Virginia Woolf, whose diary was extremely personal and documented each day. She began keeping a diary at the age of 15, and her family called her the “unofficial family historian”. Eventually her diaries were published and give us an insight to the great writer she was. Through her diaries we see how she feels and how she develops character for her profound  novels.
    Other famous   diaries  are  ‘Early Diary of Anais Nin and Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, and political diaries by important figures such as President Harry Truman.  While most presidents keep diaries, especially during their term in office, President Truman would write comments and notes throughout the day in his diary, giving us a glimpse of  his true thoughts and emotions, and how he felt about a wide range of subjects, both personal and political.

    There are also spiritual diaries,  The Genesee Diary - a Report from a Trappist Monastery by Henri J.M Nouwen.  According to Publisher’s Weekly, Nouwen, a Catholic priest “gives an extraordinary account of a man seeking inner peace and total commitment to God….. a fine portrait of cloistered life, a beautifully written account of one man’s soul – searching.”

    Diary as story also brings vitality to popular, contemporary fictional book and movies i.e.  Bridget Jones Diary and Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    One  great thing about diary is it provides dates, and feeling, and names and places of a given moment. Even if one sided, diary tells a story about the person writing the diary, and who  and what they're writing about.   Diary often leads to autobiography and memoir; It is a record of  the life and times  of  the writer, artist, politician, friend, family member. 

    Keeping a personal diary  can be  a valuable tool for writers as it helps foster the  discipline and routine of  writing daily.  Reading one of the many published diaries available  can  also be  a good tool for writers , especially those writing biography.  Diary is often the first step to good storytelling.


elizabethbrinton said...

Queen Victoria's diaries have just been made public for the first time. I read a few entries from her early years and I found them fascinating.

Patty said...

I've always liked the idea of keeping a diary but the thought of someone else possibly reading my most secret thoughts has deterred me. I think I'll just enjoy those written by other brave souls!

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

My first diary, around age 10 or 11, was a pink vinyl number with a little lock and key. As I recall there was page after page of "Nothing happened today." lol
Since young adulthood I've kept journals. Every so often I leaf through them, tear out anything particularly keep-worthy, and destroy the rest. I like to write down what I'm thinking because writing helps me organize my thoughts and gain a clearer perspective, but then I don't necessarily want others to read it. So when it's served its purpose as a "brain dump," I destroy it.