When I was thirteen, I kept a diary. I suspect many of us do. If you are famous, then keeping a diary means one day the diary may keep you, but this does not apply to us ordinary mortals. Certainly, my thirteen-year-old diary was full of uninteresting things, such as how much I hated my French lessons and which boy I was keen on at the time. Being a fickle creature, I must confess the latter changed every week, although my hatred for French remains constant to this day.
A few years ago, a friend gave me a beautiful leather-bound notebook, with handmade paper, all wrapped in a silk bag. I decided to keep it as a nightly journal; not so much a record of events, but as a way of processing my emotions. I rediscovered it yesterday and flipped through it. It was only half-full, but it reflected an unhappy time, and I’m relieved to see how far I’ve moved on since then.
Many of you will know I am a paper-crafter; I make greetings cards. I’m thinking of expanding into making beautiful journals. These have never appealed to me before, but now, something has changed.
Perhaps it was falling back in love with fountain pens. After all, if one is going to write in longhand, one needs something to write. Maybe it was the discovery of some inspiring crafters on YouTube.
But, what to write in these journals? There seems little point in detailing my mundane existence.
Yesterday I watched a video on why we might keep a journal, and it was illuminating. The presenter talked of one of his friends who uses her journal to vent her emotions – and then burns it with some ceremony as a part of processing them. Another friend uses hers as a gratitude journal. He talked of his own reasons: to remind him of places he’s been and his friends all over the world. We can never hope to remember everything and so he keeps his memories in journals. For those of us with families, he said, remember our memories die with us, and maybe our children will like a record of the little things. They will look at old photographs of family groups and those photographs will mean nothing. Knowing the old woman on the right is Great Aunt Jane, who always wore that same brooch and who smelled of peppermint, is the kind of detail that brings one’s family history to life. We need stories of our past to anchor ourselves in the present.
So, maybe we need to write – to write emotions or to write our stories. Maybe we need to draw pictures or cut out articles or images and stick them in an album.
We do so much online and on our screens but there is something beautiful and timeless about writing in ink on paper. You don’t need to have good handwriting; you just need to write.
And I’ll let you off the fountain pen.