My secret life

I’m so enjoying reading about other people’s personal writing in my new guest series. It feels like a privileged glimpse into secret worlds that most of us don’t usually talk about.

Reading about other people’s experiences is making me notice the particular qualities of my diaries that I hadn’t thought about before; they were just an organic thing that had been developing over the course of a long lifetime, with a sort of inevitability. They were just what they were.

For example, I’ve never kept more than one journal at a time, and it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone might. My teenage diaries were mostly about my family life, school and friends, and they make fascinating, if embarrassing, reading to me now.

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My teenage take on Christmas joy, peace and happiness

Even my handwriting was quite different back then, but one thing I still do in my journals seems the same – I’ve always paper clipped and stuck things in.

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I stopped keeping diaries when I went to university, but started writing a dream journal a few years later. At first, these were just recounts of my dreams, with no commentary, in tightly-packed tiny writing which is almost impossible to read. I used school exercise books, and continued to do so for the next ten years, though the content evolved to make space for some notes on interpretations, which meant I had to also record something of the day’s events.

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As my dream diaries gradually into a record of my whole life, both my sleeping experiences and my waking ones, I needed more space, so I upsized to A4 folders, and from there, finally, I moved away from the school/student stationery look to my first hardback A4 journals.

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The first ones were very plain, nothing like the gorgeous notebooks I use now.

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My current diary on the right, and the one I’ll be starting soon

I think of my notebooks as dream journals, although they include all sorts of other things, such as notes on what’s been happening in the daytime, thoughts and ideas, sketches, book reviews, exercises I’ve done from other people’s teachings, tarot readings, meditations…

All the entries are dated, and they record different parts of my experience in the moment – mind, body, heart and soul. I can find old entries quickly because I’ll remember other things that were going on at the time, what I was doing/thinking/feeling or dreaming.

I colour code. Red gel for my dreams, black for my thoughts about dreams, blue for my day life events and reflections. I write when I feel like it, which can be several times a day, or nothing at all for several weeks. It never feels like a burden, but a a pure delight.

Every New Year’s Eve, I read back over my whole year of writing, noting the major themes, achievements, and problems I’m carrying forward. On New Year’s Day, I write a page of goals for the year to come, and record my New Year tarot spread.

I find my diaries are a wonderful resource for reconnecting with the authentic past which the story-making processes of memory tend to soften and refine over time. They’re a place where I develop my ideas for non fiction, write poems and enjoy adventures in imagination.

They’re like a very old friend I’ve been talking to since I was a child, and I hope they’ll be with me until I’m very, very old.

I generally like to keep things short and snappy on the blog, but I’ve found I’d like to hear more fully about other people’s experience of personal writing. So if you would like to contribute to this series going forward, feel free to choose any length from a few sentences to 1000 words and email them to me author@jennyalexander.co.uk. Include images if you would like to.

I’ve got some lovely guest posts about personal writing lined up for you already. Please keep them coming!

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