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The accidental diarist: Blogging and writing and memory

I started this blog as a way to record and share my time living overseas, “a long way from where I grew up”. While my initial idea was something of a travel blog (hence the title), it quickly evolved into a place where I write each week about the small details of my life. Things like the feeling of it being summer but not Christmas, or the times I’m glad my Italian isn’t that good, or a list of nerve-wracking (to me) behaviours I’ve seen from cyclists.

Around the same time I started posting regularly again, I started a journal. First it was a cheap slim notebook with a green cover that I took with me on vacation to Slovenia and Croatia in August 2014, to make notes on where I went and what I saw, and (more imporantly!) to have a place to sketch out maps of hostel locations for when I was without internet.

It was supposed to be a one-off travel diary — before that, I’d sometimes carried a notebook to scribble down shopping and to-do lists, but I was never a diarist. I’d tried as a teenager, but I was always too self-concious to be able to record my thoughts, knowing that I’d find them cringe-worthy even a few weeks later.

But two weeks of near-daily writing was enough to build up some momentum. My entry from August 17th starts, Here’s a crazy idea — why not keep on keeping a journal? Obviously this is crazy talk because now I’m back in my apartment in Torino, and I’d have to comment on things that will continue to exist in my life for more than a handful of days. That’s scary. And somehow that stuck and now I have a pile of notebooks (that none of you will ever read, oh my goodness I am dying of embarrassment at even the idea of it, the teenage cringe-y-ness has not disappeared AT ALL, you guys I am literally wincing slightly as I write this).

All this writing — for an audience and for myself — has some side effects. I noticed early on that whatever I write becomes my “official” version of what had happened.The details I elide slip from my memory. On my best days, this prods me to write honestly; most of the time it makes me accientally-on-purpose leave out my questionable motives and unflattering details. Meanwhile, the events I do write about have beautiful narrative structure in my memory, and events that I don’t write about I struggle to even place in a particular year let alone remember clearly.

(There’s a corollary to this that came up in a conversation with friends the other week: for those of us who have moved around a lot, many of our conversations are with people we can’t see in person and happen via the written word — facebook or whatsapp or email or whatever. Which means that every dumb comment we make is recorded and searchable, to some extent. And if you’re like me you remember written things better than spoken, even without a literal record, and these conversations last longer in our memory than the same conversation face-to-face would. Which surely must change the dynamics of friendships, at least subtly.)

For now, I’ll keep writing, even if I can’t record everything. It’s fun to turn the small details into stories I can share, and it feels like there’s never any shortage of material…


3 thoughts on “The accidental diarist: Blogging and writing and memory

  1. CatherineRose

    I like the way you make little bits of regular life fun to read. I’m not great at that myself, but I think I should practice because I get so bored with my blog posts sometimes and I wish there was more of my life in them. I’ll try to take a leaf out of your… blog, I guess :-) Keep on anecdoting!



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