The Big Issue : Edition 543
THE BIG ISSUE 11 – 24 AUG 2017 13 PHOTOSBYJAMESBRAUND I CAN’T BE the only humourist who’s secretly convinced they’re but a Bic click from being writer and essayist David Sedaris. Smart? Tick. Self-deprecating? Tick. Good at churning out achingly perfect prose that spins petty character flaws and human vulnerability into acutely observed satire? Well, modesty forbids, but once in a while someone sends a letter to the editor saying they like the cut of my jib. David Sedaris may be a middle-aged American homosexual kind-of-genius who currently collects kerbside litter as a hobby, but apart from the fact he’s sold more than seven million books and pulls in $2.5 million a year, I could absolutely be him. If only, gentle reader, I could bring myself to keep a diary. The secret to Sedaris’ success is no secret. He writes in his diary every day. Every day. He started at 20, he’s 60 now, that’s 40 years of diarising. Every furshlugginer day. He’s probably scribbling in his goddamn diary right now, gold fountain pen in hand, eyes twinkling as he notes down the hilariously awkward conversation he had with the short lady in the beret at the newsagent. As much as I love him and you know, am him, I hate his guts and wish his ink would coagulate. Here is a list of the things I guarantee I could do every day for 40 years: urinate. That’s it. Eat cheese would come a close second. I’ve tried keeping a diary. As a writing teacher it’s almost a legal requirement. Joan Didion kept a diary. Samuel Pepys wrote a diary. Virginia Woolf had a diary. Victor Hugo, Anaïs Nin, Anne Frank: diaries. The internet is lousy with quotes from famous diarists about how key it is to keep a diary. Well. They would say that. They’re good at it. My experience of writing a diary is an excruciating emptying of the garbage. A slow-moving river of toxic sludge. There are no “bon mots”. There are no reflections on mortality, the elusive nature of joy, or timeless meditations on the meaning of life. There are » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a comedian and writer...as long as there’s no journaling involved. FIONA Dear Diary “My journals went under the house last weekend, and I’d rather climb Everest in my knickers than drag them out and open one.” no insights. What there is, so far as I can tell from the occasions I’ve blocked my gag reflex and opened a random page, is me pumping my own tyres, or lamenting their deflation. “I feel like I’m really overcoming my blocks,” I’ll say. “There’s a lot of flow in my life right now.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. My journals went under the house last weekend, and I’d rather climb Everest in my knickers than drag them out and open one. “I hate myself. I am such a loser. I can’t believe it’s been four months since I wrote my pages.” My dystopian future is not The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s someone, anyone, opening one of my journals. I can see their expression right now. There’s a cocked eyebrow signalling both mild disgust and acute disappointment. “Wow,” my hypothetical future critic is thinking, “This is...unreadable.” God I’m boring. The only way I managed to journal at all was by following Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a self-help tome that insists you write three pages of whatever every morning. To a point it’s useful, but you end up with three pages of whatever. Three pages of, essentially, mental waste product. You wouldn’t have an episode of MasterChef where the hero of the dish is a stale poo. How do you write a diary that generates ingredients to cook with, not faeces? Genuine mystery. Call Inspector Morse. Or call my brother from another mother! David Sedaris has a new book out. Theft By Finding is a selection of entries from his diaries, from 1977 to 2002. Sigh. I’ll get it of course. Insight alert: envy is the fine line that separates adoration from hate.