I was a little older than Izzy is now when I first began keeping a diary. My parents had recently separated and I was meeting regularly with the deputy head of my school so she could keep a close eye on how I was coping with the emotional upheaval. One day she suggested I might find it helpful to write down my feelings in a notebook or journal. I was soon filling the pages of a small cloth bound book with carefully written prose, scribed in dark blue ink with my beloved fountain pen.
Years of committed diarizing followed. Each new journal was adorned with stickers, photographs and pictures cut from the pages of Mizz magazine and Sugar. Sprawling letters written in tipex warned would-be snoops to ‘keep out’. I quickly became adept at guarding my private thoughts and observations, concealing each book beneath my pillow at night as I slept.
More than simply a window to my soul, the diaries became a written document of my teenage years, charting every friendship and every school girl crush. I recorded my reaction to Take That’s break-up and divulged the details of heated arguments with my parents. I wrote about ambition, wistfully described the changing of the seasons and lamented my lack of boobs. Then, around the age of 17, I stopped. At first my entries became more sporadic, then later they ceased completely.
Almost ten years after suddenly losing the urge to religiously keep a diary, I hit publish on my first blog post. Inspired by beauty blogs like the now defunct Magpie Sparkles, I positioned myself within the same niche and quickly began publishing my thoughts on lipstick and the like. As the days wore on, snippets of my everyday life slowly crept into my content. The term ‘lifestyle blogging’ didn’t exist back then, at least not within my lexicon, and there were no experts telling me my readers would engage with more personal posts. It happened naturally because, after all those years, I still had an overwhelming desire to document.
Around twelve months later I published my first Weekend Post, sparking an ongoing series that has chronicled the way we’ve chosen to spend Saturday and Sunday almost every week for the last four years. The ritual of writing those bullet points has become second nature to me and I know I would continue to record our life in this way even if you all stopped reading tomorrow.
Social media means it’s easier than ever before to document the minutia of day-to-day life, both visually and through the written word. Blogs quickly spawned vlogs and twitter encouraged us to shout about our lives in 140 characters or less. I’m a fairly recent convert to Instagram, but it immediately appealed to my need to immortalise moments and create digital keepsakes. I regularly upload photos to Facebook and turn my children’s witty one liners into status updates, committing them to computer code lest my own memory should fail me. Then, in the wake of the inevitable backlash and concerns about the transience of it all, we revert to more traditional methods, printing and displaying the version of our lives we have carefully curated for ourselves.
There are those that don’t understand. They call it ‘oversharing’ or ‘TMI’. Perhaps they think bloggers are narcissistic show offs and fakes. They don’t want to know what we had for breakfast. They wonder what happened to the concept of privacy.
The desire to document is part of who I am and I think it always has been. The only difference is there is now apparently an audience for what might have once been private diary entries. There may be dissenters, but on some level we have all come to expect insight into one another’s lives. Those of us that want to share will continue to do so. Personally, I look forward to looking back on the record I’m creating.
Did you, or do you, keep a diary? What do you think of the desire to document?