A diarist's dilemma - what do you do with your personal papers?
Do you keep a journal? Or a diary? Or a book of scribblings? I've been writing reflections down since I was ten years old and they tend to accumulate, these half-finished blank books. The question is what do you do with all of them?
Have you seen the new book called Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters? Someone's taken scribblings Marilyn Monroe left behind - recipes, to do lists, poetry written on the back of envelopes - and published them as a book. It's beautiful, moving, sad, revealing and extraneous all in one. And it gets me thinking, what about me, what about my papers - what do I want to leave behind? I want to ask your opinion on it if you are a diarist like me...
What do you do with all of your old papers?
A) Keep them all and when you pass on leave them to whomever might wish to peruse?
B) Edit them, sifting out the chaff, eliminating to-do lists, embarrassing moments, and bad poetry and only retaining the essentials?
C) Destroy them all? Preferably by fire.
I suppose it's partly a question of how we treat our past. I'm opting to edit. My journals sometimes reflect the worst parts of me, the days when I was most blue and wrote it out as a release. I don't want my legacy to be girlish rantings, egocentric misunderstandings, foolish crushes and immature obsessions. And I don't want to hang on to the darkest parts of my past either, conjuring them up and bringing them into my present. I've moved on and I live here and now - not then. And yet these pieces of paper bring that past self back, weighing me down.
You could argue the flip side, that past evidence of immaturity and foolishness and sadness can serve to remind you of how you've grown, how your life is improved, how much you have to be grateful for, and how things are never as dire as they seem when you're right in the middle of them. And you could also argue that flaws and quirks make us uniquely human, and to edit is to reject my own imperfection that's part of being human.
So, what do you think? How do you treat your old papers? Are you afraid of other people reading them out of context? Do you enjoy looking back or does it sometimes make you sad?