CWN 004: A Writer’s Diary

Today, The Creative Writer’s Notebook shifts its focus from James Joyce to another modernist, Virginia Woolf. But I want to take a different approach to the recommended assignment of freewriting — I want to make an observation on my own writer’s diary.

For 35 years, since my early college days, I’ve maintained a journal, making several entries a week. Most entries are short, perhaps a half-dozen sentences, and the majority of them are more personal observation than anything to do with my literary ambitions. My writing style tends to be more conversational than analytical, as if I were writing a letter to myself. And that style leads to a curious trait I’ve observed.

The majority of the time, I write in the first person — I need to get myself to the doctor, have this pain in my shoulder checked out. At other times, I switch to the third person — If you want to get more sleep at night, maybe you should get to bed earlier. Sometimes when I look at what I’ve just written in my journal, I see that shift within the same sentence — Got a ton of books I’ve downloaded over the years; you really should start reading them.

It’s an interesting dynamic that could be interesting to analyze on its own — what causes me to shift to third person? Am I more likely to make that shift when I’m exhorting myself to take some action? I’ve also considered using this as an inspiration for a story: a journal writer comes to believe some of his entries are being written by another person.  

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