Dear Diary, Don’t Tell

I’ve loved paper—pretty paper—since forever. This includes a whole desk full-to-bursting of gorgeous thank you notes, delicate handmade stationary, and dozens of little bags full of lovely confetti that look so fabulous until you’re the one to open the letter and it dumps all over your floor.

I could talk all day about what I love about gorgeous stationary, but today I want to dish on a type of paper that might not get as much airtime—diaries. Pretty diaries.

Diaries by their very nature harbor secrets. They conjure thoughts of clandestine activities and illicit appetites. I mean, if a particular thought or recounting of events was fit for general consumption it sure as hell wouldn’t be written in a private book, right?

I kept a variety of lovely bound forms from my pre-teen years into early college, but I didn’t call them diaries. They were my “journals” – as though using that moniker made them more legitimate. Or maybe less juvenile. Oh, how I freakin’ loved those pages. The freedom they gave me to pour my heart out without fear of shame or embarrassment. Writing in them massaged my creativity, strengthened my aptitude for expression, and allowed me a space to burn off some steam.

When I re-read them from a distance now (the ones I didn’t throw away, dammit), I find myself simultaneously amused, bemused, and quite frankly, appalled. I tell myself that the angst that often leaps off those pages will help me understand and empathize with my eleven-year-old daughter in a few short years. Because don’t we forget what it’s like to be a teenager suffering from unrequited love? Don’t we forget the overwhelming insecurities of being on the outside of a group of whispering girls, or freaking out about the latest acne flare-ups when prom is only days away?

Though I’d spend a lot of time in the store selecting just the right one that spoke to me (one of them sported a lovely inked hardcover of “Scream” by Vincent Van Gogh – do you think that one in particular is full of angst? *snort*), my “journals” were more than lovely jackets on a shelf (or tucked under the mattress). They offered me a safe place to express my self-doubt and disappointments, but sometimes I wonder if it’s not a sad reflection that I didn’t have anyone close enough with whom to share those very thoughts. In my novel, COME HELL OR HIGH DESIRE, a hunt for a missing diary not only brings my hero and heroine closer together, but its existence causes my heroine’s best friend to wise-crack that someone who keeps a journal obviously doesn’t have any of the if-you’re–in-jail-I’m–in-jail type of friends.

Looking back, that was probably true of me in high school. I’ve always kept my deepest fears and insecurities in a headlock (what an apt analogy), not wanting to burden anyone or be a downer. I’m wired to show people nothing but the happy in me.

Then a man came into my life.

He instinctively knew how to read me, even when I didn’t want him to. I haven’t written in any form of journal since I met him (unless you count my kids’ baby books – which are all gorgeous specimens, albeit a little sketchily filled in). I guess that particular thirst for catharsis went away. When he became my husband, I see that he also became my living diary. A diary…with benefits.

So now, I fill my need for lovely paper with linen-bound notepads and ribbon-bedecked magnetic grocery lists. I’ve traded angst for domesticity, but my love for pretty paper has never gone away.

How about you? Step on up to the mic and share your thoughts on diaries. Have you ever kept one? If so, do you still have it? Is it pretty?