Dear diary…

Dear diary….

I recently found one of my old diaries tucked away, dusty and forgotten, on a high shelf  – I thought I’d destroyed them all, but one (the most embarrassing) survived…


I stopped writing a diary at sixteen; the last I wrote (yes, the one that refused to be destroyed,) a spectacularly detailed account of my crush on someone who barely acknowledged my existence – a year-long exposé of his every word and look in my direction. What can I say?  It was the end of the eighties and I lived in the middle of nowhere, the very edge of the world where nothing ever happened. I smile and cringe to remember it, and I also want to shake that sixteen-year-old girl and say for God’s sake, girl, just talk to him!

I thought I stopped with the diaries because I grew out of documenting the tedium and angst of teenage-hood – a childhood thing I no longer needed as I grew up. But there’s a point in this diary, this one survivor, where the diary pretty much stopped and I started writing little stories instead – stories that were all fiction, but used all the very real emotion I was feeling at the time…

Because with fiction, I could give myself the happy endings I longed for – why document another day of staring at my crush across the library when I could write a story where the girl gets the boy? Why whine about a boring weekend where nothing happened but a trip to the supermarket with my mum when I could write a story where the supermarket gets overrun with zombies and the hero has to escape or be eaten?

Sitting in my writing room today, surrounded by decades worth of beautiful notebooks full of notes for novels, short stories, flash fiction, even poetry, I realise I never gave up writing a diary at all. I started the stories because I wanted the happy endings, the thrilling adventures and as life grew bigger and more complicated, I turned completely to fiction because some things are too hard to lay bare on the pages of a diary…

But fiction – none of the stories I write are based on real-life, but the emotions are real, the feelings are real. If you read my notebooks, you could probably get a good idea of my life if you know how to crack the code … when I’m sad, I write happy stories – I re-write life to always have a happy ending. Darker fiction can only be written when things are good in my life.

As I flick through some of my old notebooks, I notice something else – interspersed between the stories and the notes, there are still diary entries. Every New Year, I still write my resolutions in diary form, every time something exciting happens, I write about it – but these days, it’s less Dear Diary, I met a boy, and more Dear Diary, I got short-listed in a competition. I’ve got the boy, the children, the romantic happy ending,  I just need the getting-published dream to come true now…

Writing – you are now my teenage crush, and I will continue to spend hours daydreaming about our happy ending and obsessing about every look or word sent my way by agent or editor…


Vanessa x

P.s. Anyone else still keep a diary?

17 thoughts on “Dear diary…

  1. Hi Vanessa! I too have those embarrassing diaries stashed away somewhere, and like your experience, diary writing led straight into story writing ~ rewriting my life, as it were, and definitely giving it a happy ending every time. Oh teenage angst! Looks like all that escapism was constructive after all, having turned us into what we are today: authors. LOL! Great post, thank you for sharing. 🙂 Ps ~ what happened to Mr. Crush?

  2. Don’t worry, if not a diary there would be a childhood friend (as in my case) who remembers all your most embarrassing moments for you… At least you don’t have to read the diary 😛

    • Ha! Ah yes, the childhood friends … they’re always the ones who’ve kept the most embarrassing photos as well just to illustrate the embarrassing moments 🙂 I suppose you can’t really keep your childhood friends hidden away in a box on a shelf, can you?
      Vanessa x

  3. Thanks Nicky – I was thinking of adding an extract from the diary into my post but it was just too embarrassing! As for Mr Crush… all that angst and I forgot all about him the moment I got to art college and found lots of broody, arty types to have new crushes on 🙂

  4. What I want to know is why do those childhood friends have such amazing memories? I’ve got a writing diary where I put anything I’m doing as I go along, like comps and RNA stuff – it was a present from my daughters and it’s dark green leather with gold embossed patterns and clips to hold it shut. Very impressive. But my sad diary is a diet one where I’m trying to write down what I eat (or more importantly drink…)

    Great post, Vanessa

    Celia xxx

    • Thanks, Celia – now if you’re going to start talking about the actual diary itself … mmmm… stationery… that’s whole a whole other post 🙂
      Vanessa xxx

  5. Keep a diary? Moi? Yes! It’s called my Facebook page! There isn’t much that isn’t put on there! I find sharing everything with people helps – whether it’s good or bad – everyone has been through something similar and can laugh and cry along with you! I love my friends *blub*

    P.S. Before Facebook I had a ten year diary listing all the boys I’d kissed with marks out of ten! My Grandad and I watched it go up in flames when I decided it just had to be destroyed! This was a long time ago I hasten to add! Sshh don’t tell Mr Big but he got a ten! No wonder I married him!

  6. Hi Mandy – I think I had a list like that once upon a time … that one definitely got destroyed!
    Vanessa x

  7. I remember keeping a diary for a short time when I was 12. Then I discovered that my mother had been reading it. From then on, I kept a diary in my head – and I still do!!

    • Probably wise, Carol – I’d be mortified if anyone read my diary (it was embarrassing enough reading it back myself!!)
      Vanessa x

  8. I think my diaries from age 14 to 17 or so are in my attic. I’m not sure if I could face reading them – you were brave to take a peek again! Great post, Vanessa xx

  9. Thanks Elle – I’m just glad I turned to fiction and stopped writing the diaries 🙂
    Vanessa x

  10. I’m just now faithfully keeping a diary, though I call it a journal. I used to keep one on and off through the years, more off than on. I have all sorts of notebooks I write other things in, but my journal is for my very personal thoughts and I keep it hidden. From time to time, I hide it too well and end up misplacing it from myself. Luckily, it’s usually not long before I find it again. 🙂

  11. I kept a diary for years, however, when I moved out of home I ceremoniously burned them all – no way was I letting them fall into the wrong hands.

    Lovely post Vanessa.

    Sue xx

  12. Writing a diary, and keeping it? Too risky. Someone else is bound to find it and read it. Prefer to reveal to others only what I want them to see of me. Creating fictitious characters, writing abour their loves and lives is probably all part of the subterfuge maybe.

  13. I’ve kept a diary since I was 13! That’s like 26 years of diary keeping : ) Can’t live without them. I get the diary itch in September when I start thinking of where I’m going to get the next one for the year ahead. A page-a-day none of that weekend on one page malarky for me ; ) x

  14. What a lovely lovely post, Vanessa. And I had to laugh at your diary – I’ve one of those from that exact time, too – and covering the same topic – every look, every excruciating encounter – the only difference being, I was made to talk to my crush by some conniving friends. And um. I’m married to him now. It was evidently meant to be. I hope 🙂 Needless to say, that diary is under the kind of security Fort Knox would be proud of. I just can’t bring myself to destroy it.
    But yes – I’m exactly the same as to when I can write happy and when I can write dark. In fact – I’m the same with reading it, too. X

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