Maria Popova, in one of her posts and quoting various authors, wrote about why a writer should keep a diary – a diary that “nobody reads but you” – to capture the spontaneity, the honesty, the occasional idea worth expanding. For practice, I have a notebook I carry around to catch the fleeting snatch of prose I hear in my head, but I confess I have written barely anything worth reading in there, and the bulk of anything I write that I actually like ends up here instead.

It partly springs from a sort of vanity – it is nice to know people can read what I write (whether they do or not is a different matter – the fulfilment derived from being onstage is not always related to the number of people in the audience). Yet once I write with that awareness hovering at my shoulder, it’s so much more difficult to write uninhibitedly, without pit-stopping at every two words to examine whether or not my sentence is well-crafted. The backspace key is another bane – it allows me to act on my self-doubt and erase whenever I am anything less than satisfied with what I type.

I envy writers in the days of no self-publishing and no backspace keys, although I know very well that I’m making a scapegoat out of my environment and I only have my lack of discipline and my vanity to blame!

The other reason may be that it can be unpleasant to write down my thoughts in a truly personal space – I often don’t like what I write, or the process of writing it, because of what it says about myself. Often I find my thoughts too empty, too shallow, too boring, too angry, too depressed…and writing these things down in a secret notebook, seeing them articulated in my own messy script, is like a confession – it makes these parts of me real.

And so, unsurprisingly, my notebook is currently predominated by scraps from books and poems, sometimes complemented by my hesitant, one-sentence commentary, but generally comprising more of borrowed thoughts from other people superimposed on my life rather than my own. On the other hand, my own thoughts are channelled to my public blog, exhibited for the world to see – but likely after having been filtered down only to thoughts I am comfortable bearing.

Perhaps the idea of me bearing witness to myself is scarier than the world bearing witness to me…because to everyone else I am just another transient passerby (i.e. who cares what I think or am, really?), whereas I have to live with myself – watching, assessing, criticising – for as long as I live.

So does choosing to write in a public space make you more honest (with the world), or less honest (with yourself)?

 

 

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