Posts Tagged ‘long-time journal writers’

Answer #4 to Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry

February 12, 2014

Yesterday I received quite a gift from a long-time diarist I corresponded with two years ago.  I asked him if he would be interested in answering the questionnaire I had posted. He began with a few questions at a time and answered with a depth that I felt was extraordinary.  His replies are thoughtful as well as thought-provoking.  I will present them to you one page at a time over several days.

 

What is your current occupation?

High school English teacher about to retire at age 64

 

Has anyone else in your family kept a diary?

My great grandmother on my father’s side who lived 88 years and died in 1962

My grandmother, her daughter, who kept diaries but destroyed them in old age.

My father kept a diary of his days in the Pacific during world war II 1943-44-45.

I started my diary in 1971, the year I began my married life. I kept it sporadically through the years but became a devoted diarist only when I turned 50. My last 14 years have been very busy with journal writing, memories, ideas.

 

Intimate details of sexual experiences?

 

No.

 

At one point I wanted to write honestly about sexuality, but there is always the privacy factor for many good and bad reasons.

Part of my reluctance was my Irish Catholic upbringing. Part of it also is how little I understood about my sexuality or anyone else’s. it would have been easy for me to write in a descriptive way or keep a “tell all” of real and imagined experience, but that would have been no victory for me because I needed to enter and explore my emotional life as both the cause and effect of sexuality. I came to distrust anything that I could break into pieces as a separate part of myself.

 

So I began to work on my emotional life, and as you know for an American male this is an almost impossible undertaking. Only then could I ask myself, Do I really know anything about sex? Is there anything we can know about from the mystery of our emotional needs? What is sex? What is the soul? Have I ever really been deeply anchored in a rich emotional life that I can enter into the instinctive and find in my body the truth of my soul? Yes, I had a few sins and a few secrets, but it was thinking that made them so.

 

Is this an evasion? Perhaps it is, but I have never trusted the whole sexual dialogue in this country. Even when I read women’s magazines (my wife and daughter’s) they sound so full of soulless gimmicks and adolescent games. My question: do we really lead adult lives in America? Do we feel that sex makes us adults and that sexual technique is a form of wisdom? Would I be a better writer if I kept blow by  blow descriptions of the act itself? Should there be any secrets in the age of confessions?

 

So, the answer is that one might surmise who I am from my diaries, but they would have to imagine and fill in the blanks in the way that we look at current sexuality. I don’t think I would come across as a sexless man or a prude, but a reader would notice my decision not to include the details. Perhaps I thought that we made too much of sex in our time but somehow lost sight of the person and the soul of people. I was much more alive in my wholeness.  Another caution for me is that sex can take over a writer. It becomes its own reason. I’m sure my hesitance has been partly generational. It would be accurate to say there was a lot of darkness around my sexual awareness because of my religion and my family attitudes. It wasn’t discussed in any way, nor would it be something you would share with another, not even yourself.

 

Hardly enlightened, but not the worst upbringing either when I look around and see what has happened to modesty, restraint and common sense in our current national sexual attitudes. Needless to say I have never reconciled my own ideas and conflicts in this area, but found it much safer to write about sex as an idea rather than a personal record. By the way, I have read some sexual diaries. While I admire the frankness, they never seem to get out of the bedroom. I feel like I need a pair of goggles and rubber gloves. I do enjoy diaries that seem to reveal and conceal at the same time. Beyond this I truly believe that women are much better at writing about the sexual life and anything they write in this regard fascinates me. Men almost  write about sex as if they were playing with toy soldiers. Or changing the oil in their cars and checking the dip stick. I didn’t think I could add anything or make much sense of myself. And yes, it is a tendency in my diary to explain myself rather than to expose myself. All very rich themes from your questions

 

 

 


 


 

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Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists

January 12, 2014

                                     Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists

Quite some time ago I promised to write up a questionnaire/interview form for those diarists who have kept a journal for a long time.  So here are thirty-six questions I would like to ask.

First, I guess we need to define what “a long time” means.  Five years?  Ten?  25 or 50?  Although I am not opposed to ANYONE answering these questions, I would personally suggest ten years.  I am just beginning my 50th year.

When did you begin your diary and why?

Did you know back then that you would be doing this for a long time?

Why do you keep on writing?  Do you think you will ever stop?

Has anyone else in your family kept a diary?

What is your current occupation? Past occupations?

What do you write about and has that changed over the years?

Who do you write about?

Do you record nature? Colors, sound, tastes, tactile sensations?

Do you record intimate details of relationships or sexual experiences?

Do you write about coincidences/synchronicities, “miracles,” mysteries, dreams?

Does your diary have a theme, i.e. your religious or spiritual growth, your development as a dancer or musician?

Was it to record a military experience, parenting, or some other important time in your life?

Do you use your diary creatively to record ideas for future writing or sketches for art projects?

Do you include more than writing, such as photos, sketches, clippings, etc.?

Describe what form your journal is in: bound book (large or small), notebook, on the computer

Is your journal handwritten or typed? Pencil or pen?

What do you enjoy writing about the most?

Have you ever neglected to write about important historical events that happened?

Do you always tell the truth?

Are you embarrassed about anything you wrote about?  Have you torn out pages?

What is the tone of your writing – social, psychological, philosophical, historical?

Has this changed over the years?

Is your style flowery, poetic, elliptical, cut and dried, verbose, descriptive?

Are you obsessive about writing every day or about recording certain details?

Have you had breaks in your writing and, if so, for how long?

What time/place do you like to write?  Does that change?

What is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself?

Has keeping a journal changed you? How?

Do you like to re-read your journal?

Do you have favorite entries?

Was there anything you did not record which you wished you had?

Who would you allow to read it?

Who should not read it?

Would you make it public some day? Would you want it burned when you die, or preserved in an archive, or kept in your family?

Do you enjoy reading published diaries of other people?

Do you collect diaries?

Any further comments:

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This questionnaire is open to everyone.  I will publish my own answers soon.  You may respond via “comments,” but I think it will work best if you email your answers to me and then tell me if you wish your answers to be private, or if it is all right to publish them with just your first name or with your email address.  If you have questions, email me at: cynthiamanuel22@gmail.com.


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