Tuesday, 4 January 2011

SHOCK REVELATION: I Am Not Mrs Dale - Lucy Coats

Like John Dougherty yesterday, I was going to write about something different.  Not a Kindle (I don't have one...yet), but the furore around Bookstart.  However, John has done such an excellent job of it that he's left me with nothing to say--except that I agree with him about many things, not least of which is that 2011 is going to be a year of standing up (or sitting in) and shouting. 

So.  What to write about at the beginning of this new year? I think a confession is probably in order.  You lot always seem to like my confessions, and indeed I have a multitude of sins to confess. Here goes....

I am a failure.  I've been a failure for nearly half a century, or at least ever since I was old enough to write a comprehensible sentence.  And before you start in with the soothing rebuttals of this rather startling statement, I don't actually mean as a writer. I think I'm reasonably good at that.  What I mean is that I am a failure as a diarist.  In other words, Mrs Dale I am not.

I've tried more times than I can count to keep one. When I was a child, without fail some aunt or godparent would give me a diary for Christmas--once even a magnificent red leather-bound 5-year one.  I started off every time on 1st January with hope that this time, this time I would do it.  I would write something about my life every single day of the year till I reached the milestone of 31st December.  I failed every time.  In fact, the longest I ever lasted was till March 15th, a measly two-and-a-half months.

In later life--after I became a full-time writer--I tried in other ways.  I tried to write a journal.  I tried to write a dream book.  I even tried to write a poem diary.  The poems were quite good, but there are only ten of them.  There just seems to be a little part of my brain which is a rebel, which says: "this is really boring.  Your mundane daily life is boring. Who's going to want to read about all that stuff like how the maths teacher shouted at you again for being stupid over trigonometry (a frequent childhood event), or how your university tutor made you smoke pot as part of your 'education', or what it was like for a young editor in 80's New York, or how it felt to fly out of Ladakh eight days before they closed the borders to the West, or...or...."  Yes. I know.  Those things might all be of interest to future generations of my family or the wider world.  But it's the bits in between I have trouble with. The days when nothing happens except a trip to the supermarket or doing the housework or the school run.  That's when I lose the will to write a diary.

However this year, 2011, is the year of my half century.  Surely 50 years on the planet deserves recording in some way.  So I'm going to try again.  I have it all planned out.  I shall have a 'secret diary blog' which I shall write once a week, recording the events and thoughts of the last seven days.  Actually, I've already started it.  Will I succeed?  Yes.  I bloody well will. And you can quote me on that come December 31st.  If you remember.


catdownunder said...

Can you remember things for seven days? :-)

Lucy Coats said...

Cat--I have a cunning diary plan! I write every day in a draft document which gets saved, then will publish at the end of every week in my secret blog. And, I hope that by now you 'know' me better than to imagine I can keep ANYTHING in my head for 7 days, let alone important stuff!

John Dougherty said...

You are never 50!

Lucy Coats said...

Why thank you, sir! But I will be 50 in April. It's the clean country air and the virtuous life I lead which makes me look so young!

Julie P said...

life begins at 50 diary or no diary! Hope 2011 is a bumper yr for you.

Nicola Morgan said...

OMG, 50??? In April??? That means you are SEVEN MONTHS older than me! hehehehehehehe. *cackles as only a nearly-50-year-old could*

To be serious, I have written a diary since I was 15. I am not disciplined - I am actually useless. The secret of my success is that I set low standards, Specifically, if nothing happens, I don't write it. So, there are gaps in my diaries. Sometimes the gaps are long. It doesn't matter. The point is that I have records going back, erm, 35 years. Oh crikey, that's a long time. Especially for someone so ill-disciplined.

The big problem with diaries: they make you remember the things you really wish you'd forgotten. And they scare you because sometimes you read them and can't remember for the life of you what you were talking about. Who, for example, was Martin? Apparently I kissed him. Reader, I didn't marry him, whoever he was.

Ms. Yingling said...

And then there's the fact that you can't really throw the journals away. Do I really want to read about how mad I was at my mother in 1974? No, but it's there, and I can't really toss it in the trash.And keep this in mind: "A man who keeps a diary pays,
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful—then,
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less Of fulness than of emptiness."


But good luck!

Saviour Pirotta said...

We want to see the poems!

Penny Dolan said...

Good luck, Mrs Lucy Dale!!! Have tried to go for the journal approach myself, which to me means "write when there's something to write about" but it never works like that. During the happy productive, social times, I'm too busy to write. So any journals end up full of erratic moaning and groaning when I'm angry or miserable. And are not a nice read. I am planning a bonfire one day soon so the dearly beloved doesn't discover what a grouch I really am.

Andrew Strong said...

Like Nicola, I've kept a diary since I was fifteen. For twenty years I wrote five hundred words a day, even if there was nothing happening. Now and again I made it up. At thirty five I decided it would be better to make up someone else's life than lie about my own, and that's how I wrote my first book. I still keep diaries, notebooks, drawings etc etc, and have shelves of them. Diaries have two big drawbacks 1. you need to store them somewhere and 2. whatever's not written down gets forgotten - the diary is the official version. These days, sadly, I spend more time rereading old stuff than writing new. It's frightening.

Katherine Langrish said...

My teenage diaries are frightening... In comparison, not sure I've ever read any convincing YA first person narratives at all.
I was SURE I WAS RIGHT - about everything.