Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear Dumb Diary

As many of you know, I grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Minneapolis. My father was a gifted musician and songwriter, but he never had much commercial success and as a result, he hit the bottle hard and then took his frustrations out on my mom.

To escape the household tension, I struck out on my own to pursue my music. For years I tried my best to make it at a local club, though I was constantly bickering with my band mates. They thought I was completely self-absorbed because I wouldn’t play any of the songs they’d written, just my own, and I seemed prone to long, indulgent guitar solos that alienated the crowd….

Oh, wait just a gosh darn minute. That’s the plot of Purple Rain. I get that confused with my own life story sometimes. That probably wouldn’t happen so often if I kept better track of the details of my own history.

Anyway, I was wondering, do you all keep a diary? Or do you see blogging as the substitute for keeping a journal or diary?

I was supposed to keep a journal when I was in grad school, in case I had some fleeting thought or observation that I could make literary hay out of or perhaps so I could someday reflect on the beauty of my day-to-day existence living on shrimp-flavored ramen noodles and Sierra Nevada stout (see, the details are so important now). I could barely get past putting down the date before I got bored.

While I am quite certain that my life was and is just as thrilling as anyone else’s and therefore worthy of being recorded in the minutest of detail, my theory as to why diaries do not appeal to me is that I seem unable to keep things in the order in which they happened, and your standard diary format is all about that: Today I did this and then this, followed by this. That’s just not how I think. I am incapable of remembering or thinking sequentially, serially, or in anything resembling a lock-step fashion, which makes plotting, scheming, and mathematics a right awful pain in the glutes, I tell you that much.

For the record, I do not see blogging and diary-keeping as the same thing. Diaries and journals have an unvarnished quality. They are, in theory, not written for an audience and thus, they closely resemble your inner monologue as much as anything can. Blogging, however, is different. Though personal and perhaps inclusive of some of the details of your daily life, blogs do have an intended audience and for that reason, should be focused and worthwhile for the reader. A diary, on the other hand – I think – is the last remaining territory where where you can dump out the raw, unformed stuff in your brain and perhaps stare at it like a Rorschach blob to see what mysteries it can unlock. Where ME ME ME writing is still permissible.

But does one have time to write books, maintain a blog, AND keep a diary? ‘Cause I don’t know about you all, but that’s a whole lot of writing and occasionally I need to eat.

What do you think? Has blogging killed diary-keeping for good? Are diaries another thing that has fallen victim to the time-crunch we all experience as adults?