No. Smack hand. Never do that!
Anyway, I really mean the Mass Observation Unit diaries submitted by ordinary people at first during WW2 but continuing on after that.
The writers often commented on how boring their lives must seem to readers but they absolutely are not. They provide a fascinating insight into the minutiae of other people’s lives at a time of uncertainty and genuine fear but also beyond that into humdrum times of simply getting on with things.
I love to read about the worry of what the neighbours will think of this or that minor infringement of respectability. What tactless thing a husband (always a husband in those days!) might have said about a carefully prepared meal or a garment secretly knitted as a Christmas present from prudently hoarded wool.
The apparently tiny preoccupations of previous generations provide plenty of food for thought. Which of our current concerns will amuse future generations?
From a diary writing point of view, as opposed to reading, I only ever kept one for my own use when carrying out a research study. We were told to write a “reflective” diary. I bitterly resented it at first but soon came to value it highly. It was up to me what I recorded.
At first I’d just note what I planned to work at that day. Then I began to add in whether or not I’d done it, if not, why not and what thoughts arose while doing it. From reading over this as time went on, I could see emerging strands of thinking and ideas that led my study into different and fascinating avenues.
Even the emotions I was experiencing as I progressed were useful to note as the study went through various ups and downs. Breakthroughs and disappointments were faithfully recorded.
Thus it became a record of activity but more than that, far more than that. The diary itself became a major propelling force behind my study. Re-reading it, I can clearly see the whole study crystallising. Entire sections from the diary could be transplanted into the discussion section of the thesis and contributed considerably to the conclusions drawn.
Now I write fiction I wonder if I should start a diary?
Excuse me while I reflect on that!
Pic thanks to Feeling My Age on flickr