Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Of The Vanity Of Journalling

How can it be the last day of January in 2017 already and I haven't yet written anything this year? Happy new year to both of my readers - even to the one who describes this as a "vanity blog". Of course I wouldn't see it that way, because it sounds rather a derogatory term, but if it does turn out that I am writing purely out of vanity I shall have proven only that I don't know myself as well as I thought. My intention in writing this online diary has always been simply to record some of my thoughts before I stop having them or lose the ability to record them as well as using it as a vehicle to practise writing. Before I "publish" this, by clicking the onscreen button and making it available to an audience outside of my own head, I shall have spent hours in the writing and even more hours in poring over the words many times. Only when I think I have reached the point where further tinkering is simply more procrastination will I publish. I find it curious that there is even the possibility that someone I have never met in real life will see this, read it and even weirder that they feel disposed to comment upon it. I have never sought that kind of interest although being noticed does pander to something akin to vanity - albeit as a by-product rather than as an intention I suppose? However, it is here and all who find this page are welcome, lest you get any impression to the contrary. Is a readership a "bad thing" ...  discuss?

Perhaps I am being a tad disingenuous too, because I do actually have a readership in mind and that readership is my children. I don't think they will ever know that I have written this for them, unless by some amazing coincidence one of them stumbles across this account and puts parts of the puzzle together, but I hope that amongst all the ranting and the rambling about bimbling about, they will get a feel for how much I love them all and how I think about each one of them every single day. I spend far too much time revisiting my failures as a parent, but there is never a day goes by where I don't think about my children, the youngest of which are a decade beyond the age I was when the firstborn arrived. I try to tell them how much I love them and how proud I am of their achievements, but one of the characteristics in our family is that we have never been that good at talking and listening to each other. At times we have excelled ourselves in both skills, but the timings need to synchronise too. One side needs to be able to express itself at the same time as the other side needs to be empathetic and ready to listen. I have been cut to the core on a few occasions to learn that one or other thought I didn't care, when all the time I was mostly doing what I could to hang on to my own sanity in order to be able to care for them in the best way I could and in a way I thought they should be cared for. I guess it's true that I would have given my life for any one of them. I regret that I didn't always find the resources within me to live for them. There were too many times when it was challenge enough to keep living for myself.

Talking of by-products, it has appeared to be one of the by-products of divorce from their mother that I am finding a voice with which to begin to build verbal intimacy with them. When we all lived together there were tensions far too great for either of us to give our children the parenting they should have had. We stumbled from inadequacy to inadequacy. I lost my belief in the god of our cult and in prophets and holy books. As a heretic I had nothing of importance to offer. When I came out I became a liar and a tool of Satan. Is it ironic that the bargepole in my life is now put to far better use?

Perhaps the drive to write is one of the hangups from my Mormon upbringing. Mormons used to be obsessed with "keeping journals", perhaps they still are although I wouldn't really know these days. I always failed to keep a journal as demanded by "the prophet". It's not that I didn't do it. I wrote quite a lot of diary entries in lots of different books and somehow, along the way, most of them have gone missing or become damaged and all my half-started notebooks have become estranged from each other. I used to love buying a brand new journal, I was always taken with the beauty of a hardback notebook and the completeness of the untouched page. I loved the anticipation of starting afresh a project that was going to be the real thing this time round. I love to write with a fountain pen too, but the moment I committed pen or pencil to paper the book was ruined. I would make a mistake and have to cross things out and the page would look terrible. The marks on my pristine book couldn't ever be undone and I could never just tear out a page and start again. That would be a crime against a book. A book has to be whole. A missing page is an aberration. When I looked for a replacement I could never find the same kind of notebook for the next volume, so all my efforts were recorded in an untidy, uncollected miscellany of mismatching volumes.  Much as I wanted to record my ideas I always felt thwarted. My discovery of the word processor in the 1980s made life a little easier.  My first Apple Mackintosh computer, with its integrated nine-inch monochrome screen and the floppy drive that accepted disks with a very satisfying "thunk" was a revelation. Of course I tried keeping my diaries and journals on disk, but storage formats changed and storing disks was unedifying. No one would ever know what was on those disks - I never even knew what files were in my disks! They all contained a mixture of work and personal projects, word processed documents, poorly drawn diagrams and spreadsheets; occasionally even the odd musical composition. As the months and years went by each medium of storage accelerated into obsolescence. Now though, having discovered blogging and this website, I feel I can write and enjoy writing on my computer, my tablet or occasionally even my phone - although for the latter it is not only the window but also the keys that are far too small to make it that pleasurable an experience.

How did this happen? I was going to write about something else and somewhere en route I became sidetracked. I shall change the title and start again on what I thought I was going to write.

I would wish you a happy 2017 in all sincerity, but we really have got off to a rather bad start.


  1. No, a readership is not a bad thing, especially if you are not spewing hate and encouraging others to do ill deeds. I think it validates sound or artistic thinking, which is surely a good thing.

  2. I don't think journalling is vain. It may not be as productive as you think. But reading some of the diary entries mum wrote can be an eye opener, or even a reminder of a past that you, yourself have forgotten. Would we know so much about the Great Fire of London had Samuel Pepys not kept his precious diaries?

    1. Well, I am certainly not going to put myself in the same category as Pepys, but I get what you mean. A reflection on life and times and a reminder for the future me that once I had a life ... even if Pepys went to many far more exciting parties.