In defence of keeping a pretentious diary
On January 2nd, I took an LFT that told me I had COVID. This means I’ve spent the first week of 2022 self-isolating in my box room. I’m home alone on a Saturday night during the darkest, coldest, most depressing month of the year, and now I’ve got a SCAB to write. I assume I’m just supposed to lie here and reflect.
Being busy all of the time doesn’t leave much room for introspection. I used to spend a lot of time alone – the sort of alone that makes you look at the world as if you’re sitting just outside of it. I kept a diary for a long time, the entries of which were normally just descriptions of my day when I went to interesting places. Sometimes, though, I would write very pensively, in an attempt to make sense of where I was going and what I was doing. I normally wrote in this way when I was going through some sort of crisis, which has unfortunately led to most of these entries reading as slightly unhinged – but I think it did me good to get it all down. My current task of having to write a blog in isolation has reminded me of just how interesting alone-time can be, and how revealing the act of personal writing is. It can be hard but it can also be cathartic, and it lets you explore a different kind of creativity.
I decided to read back over my diary which I kept for the past five years, and I’m going to share some of these more contemplative entries with you – to see what we can learn from the kinds of observations one makes when they’re completely alone. I would like to reiterate that these are all extremely real excerpts from my actual diary.
12th September 2016 – Perth
There’s a philosophy I wish I could go by and will try to go by. I AM BETTER THAN EVERYONE. I think that I need to truly, earnestly believe this, and then my problems will disappear.
30th December 2019 – Newcastle
It’s New Year’s Eve-eve, I’m in Camber Coffee and I’ve got a matcha latte. I was just eating crushed avocado on sourdough toast with a regular latte (meaning I’ve spent roughly £7 on lattes today) which we had after our yoga class. I’m about one kombucha away from quitting my job to live in a commune in Guatemala and becoming an expert in Reiki crystal healing.
Saturday 21st September 2019 – Venice
I remember how strange I felt arriving in the hostel last night alone. I felt quite sombre after Wednesday, and self-reflective. Now – I feel in the mood to be pretentious, which is why I pulled out my diary. It’s a shame I feel too sleepy to try writing poetry, which would have made me feel very self-important.
Writing poetry is good for the soul. That’s what I was told. I might add that I was told this by a Hinge date, who was too embarrassed to contact me again after I rejected his advances twice. While I do believe that writing poetry is good for the soul, I’m not so sure I know how to do it, and writing very bad poetry is probably absolutely terrible for the soul. Not sure I’ll take that risk just yet.
25th April 2017 – Perth
I have decided that narcissism is highly underrated.
Sunday 6th September 2020 – London
Today Katie said I looked really healthy and happy. We talked about creating good things and good work. I mentioned the important rule to live by – which is that we have to be unafraid to create shit things and produce shit work – and that this is part of creativity. She mentioned that it can be visualised as getting to the core of something wrapped in a lot of layers. The only way you can get into the centre is by peeling back each layer. It’s a necessary part of the process of creating something you’re proud of. Just have to peel back the layers and layers of shit.
April 2021 – London
I’m at Fuckoffee. They’re playing Heaven Is A Place On Earth. I wish I’d brought my MacBook. I have so much to do. I hate these sentences I just wrote. I’m a wanker.
So, um, nevermind.
Diaries have the power to be illuminating, and they also have the power to be really, really annoying. A lot of the entries are from times when I went travelling solo, which offered ample time for me to indulge in my own emotions. I was going through a journey of self-discovery – by which I mean, behaving very erratically in unfamiliar countries with complete strangers who I will never see again.
And yet, there’s one entry I managed to find that interested me, which was the one about peeling back layers. My friend Katie explained it well. The same logic can be applied to keeping a diary, I suppose. I’m still sifting through this old notebook, searching for a passage that won’t make me wince – some nugget of wisdom that will reveal a kind of retrospective clarity on the meaning of my own life. But, honestly, a lot of what I wrote down is totally shit. I suppose I didn’t expect my future self to post it on a public forum, but there we go.
For every creative idea, every line of copy, the process is the same. If we don’t write down the shit, we don’t get through to the next layer. That way, writing garbage might feel like a waste of time, but it’s never meaningless.
I might try poetry next.