An Accidental Diarist

"If you want to write for yourself, get a diary. If you want to write for a few friends, get a blog….James Patterson told Jonathon Mahler, author of the Jan. 20, 2010 New York Times Magazine article, “James Patterson Inc.” Patterson, the corporation, the Guinness Book of World Record-holding author of more New York Times Bestsellers than anyone, whose books, since 2006, sell at the rate of one in every 17 novels sold is a writer’s E.F. Hutton:  when Patterson speaks, we listen.

And so I am considering his words. I don’t keep a diary, because I am not just writing for myself. I actively seek publication. I want my stories to be read by the multitudes, hoards, even. I do keep various on-and-off journals, what some might call “diaries.” My travel journal keeps me company on holidays. In it I record where I’ve been what I have done and seen and eaten, where I laid my head and if it’s worth going there again. My creative journal is on when the GGs, my creativity group, is meeting. We are currently, not meeting, so that journal is currently off. And I keep writing journals, one for each long project and an idea journal for snippets and starts—that one is always on and often switched off.

Jan 1st, 2009, I began this blog for exactly the reason Patterson said people should blog, because I wanted to write for a few friends. I didn’t set out to writing a blog. It began in 2005, as e-mail vignettes about my Jakarta life. I had only just moved from Houston to Jakarta. So many odd, exciting, new experiences were happening and I wanted to share them, so I did. My friends and family obviously enjoyed reading Jakarta News because they shared my notes with friends who shared them with other friends and before long, my list had grown to spam size—which is exactly what was happened! E-mails from me where re-directed to spam boxes. My Jakarta News was Spam??? Horrors!

That’s when someone suggested I start a blog. I know the person (who shall remain nameless) suggested a blog because then a wider audience could easily access my Jakarta News. It was supposed to take Jakarta News out of the Spam box and solve my delivery problems. Instead it practically Stopped. Me. Cold. 

I became acutely, consciously and social-consciously aware that my notes were no longer intimate or semi-private. Anyone could read them! Gulp... And so, no longer comfortable writing about my Jakarta life, I began writing what I felt comfortable and free writing about—my writing life.

Turns out, my writing life isn’t nearly as interesting as Jakarta News. While before it seemed that everyone was reading, or wanted to read my stories, it now seems that no one is or wants to read what I post. But still I go on, and on, week after week, posting a blog entry. The irony of it is that while I never intended to—or wanted to—keep a diary. It seems I am.  I have become an Accidental Diarist.

The last part of the Patterson quote I opened with continues: “…But if you want to write for a lot of people, think about them a little bit. What do they like? What are their needs? A lot of people in this country go through their days numb. They need to be entertained. They need to feel something."

For me, figuring out what I like, what I need, what I feel, what entertains me, happens as I write. And the confines of a blog give this rumination process boundaries. My hope is that anyone reading my diary might recognize similarities between their journey and mine, my discoveries and theirs.  And so, with Patterson’s definitions in mind, the diary—or blog—goes on. Read it or not. Comment if you will. Regardless, I’ll be writing…