This is an ethical and creative dilemma. Left to myself, I would publish – and, in all probability, be damned and sued from arsehole to breakfast time. But it is not just about me, is it?
If I were the kind of transactional diary-writer whose many volumes simply consisted of notations concerning the weather and the minutiae of life’s activities, it would not matter.
But, I am not – and therein lies the problem.
On the one hand, as an accomplished writer, I think my journals are a fascinating insight into the inner life of a creative person – and, though I say it myself, include some truly beautiful pieces of writing, both descriptive and emotional. From that point of view, I, as author, think the world would benefit from reading them.
But I am not alone in the universe – and the people who have passed through my life, not to mention those who have landed in my heart and been loved, receive a fair amount of writing space and time.
If I know you, I have probably written about you at some point – and, the closer you are to me, the greater the number of pages (even volumes) that will contain your name and my thoughts and feelings about you.
These are not always flattering portraits, however. Of course they aren’t. Our feelings about the people in our lives fluctuate. We hit peaks of warm fellowship and harmonious communication, and we also drop into abysses of anger, pain, misunderstanding, resentment and, sometimes, abrupt endings. If, like me, you are a diary-writer of some years’ standing, and basically pretty forthright, such things are not glossed over.
Some people reading about themselves in my volumes would, no doubt, be horrified, offended, angered. Others would, I am sure, be shocked and startled, having never realised that I felt the way I did about them.
My journal is like the blog – but more so, if you see what I mean. I tend to operate on a strict No Names policy when expressing my rage and hurt on here. In the journal, I do not have to pretend – and people are named and shamed, named and loved, named and hated, named and rejected, named and bitched about, named and praised. All the usual human responses to others, in other words – but written down!
As a social document, my full journal would, in some ways, be a most interesting read. Though predominantly a creative writer, and not politically motivated, my words do, nonetheless, cover the seventies, eighties, nineties, noughties and now the first five and a bit years of the teens. That is five decades of writing life! Not bad, eh?
I do reflect upon the Falklands War, The first Gulf War, various assassinations, deaths of famous people, disasters both man-made and natural, hatches, matches and dispatches. I write about life as a pupil at an all girls’ grammar school in Oxford, and life in Oxford generally. I write about the cycling holiday my three best friends and I went on in summer 1973 when we were fifteen. I write about life as an English student at Aberystwyth University – and teaching practice in Taliesin Primary and Bryn Mawr and Fishguard Comprehensive schools.
I write about life as an English teacher and Deputy Head of House. I write about the people I taught and those I taught with.
I write about the various men I have fallen in love with – and, in some cases, had relationships with. I write about friends and enemies, siblings and parents, my immediate family, pets. I write about music and books and food. I wrote pages when I was in labour and described giving birth. I write about sex. I write about panic attacks and orgasms and pain and delight.
I write about my love of landscape, my passion for the written word, my fascination with moons. I write about my life as a ritual magician.
The point is that everything is grist to my writing mill.
I have no intention of destroying these precious books. I am a writer and they are a large part of my life time’s body of work (so far). But there are things in them which are controversial to say the least – not because I am dishonest or making things up, but because the bluntness of my approach (and the nature of some of the things I write about) WILL cause some anger, distress, possibly disbelief and, I think, some degree of shock.
I know that Anais Nin’s journals initially had to be edited quite stringently in order to protect those who were still alive. When I first read hers, I was seventeen and had only been a diarist for three/four years! I can remember thinking how amazing it was that she had written a diary for so long.
Did I think I would still be writing the journal forty-four years on?
But I am bloody glad I did – and am! It has saved my emotional life more than once, and has allowed me to refine my writing skills over the years. I tell it things I cannot tell even my closest friends. I cry in it, laugh in it, vent my fury upon its pages.
It is flawed, as I am – but the light shines through the cracks, and, as a piece of literature, I think it has the potential to stand up there with the best.