I have been keeping a diary, on and off, for twelve years. The eloquence and spelling may have improved but the subjects seem depressingly similar at times. Lots of the time I write about the fact I have so much to write and no time to write it. This manages to fill up a good few pages. The rest tends to be about boys. Like I said, not much has changed – I am pretty much a thirteen year old girl trapped in the body of a twenty-three year old. I write down the things that have happened, the things I want to happen, who I am, how I am, where I am, why I am. It’s all part of a process of self-fictionalisation I indulge in. Which is part of being an English student, and having read far too many books, so that I now live a sort of metafiction-cum-metareal existence. I would blog, but where is the romance in that? I love the smooth curve and flow of ink on paper. But the popularity of blogging shows that this need to report, tell and create oneself is not restricted to myself.
My self-creation goes beyond my many notebooks. Really, it can be a little farcical. I indulge in gratuitous fantasies about most aspects of my life, and spend a disproportionate amount of time doing so. These fantasies will never, or at least very rarely do, come to fruition. Which is probably a good thing. That doesn’t mean it is time ill spent. Sometimes I wonder if they are the only things that make life bearable. You know, how a shared glance over a cup of coffee can suddenly transform to walks on the beach and glasses of wine and entwined limbs…. This may or may not involve me casting theatrical glances around the library. Or scribbling furiously in my journal – it stopped being a diary somewhere along the line, and became the more acceptable, grown-up and sophisticated “journal”.
My life must have a soundtrack too. Hence why I always walk around, not only with my journal in my bag, but with my headphones in. The song must be appropriate to the situation. I may be walking dreamily along Lade Braes after a few drinks – a “don’t-call-it-a-date-date” – in the streetlight glow listening to Sebastian Tellier’s La Ritournelle. Or perhaps I am sat staring out to sea with The National, or strutting along South Street to Lady Gaga. Ma-ma-ma-maaaaa. You have to appreciate every aspect of the scene – lighting, setting, emotional timbre, where you’re going, where you’re coming from. Sometimes, with the right lyrics and timing, you can reach an intensity of feeling that takes your breath away. But I have always been a bit indulgent of my romantic sensibilities. As I said, English student.
But self-fictionalisation extends beyond my own or anyone’s, singular, personal experience. It is what we do, how we live and create ourselves on a daily basis. It is those banterous conversations we have with friends. It is those situations we find ourselves in (and which St Andrews is so famous for) which make you feel as though you really could be in a sitcom. At least that someone really should be writing a sitcom about your life, because it really is just a little too farfetched at times. Unless you are actually already living in Truman Show style – which would explain quite a lot. It can’t all be coincidence can it? The town isn’t that small? The laws of time and space can’t be quite so cruel?
It is also those one-liners you share with your friends that suddenly become catchphrases – words you use to acknowledge each other and bond over and laugh over. That some unknown, invisible audience grips on to and laughs over. Words taken from films, in-jokes, ways of acting, all become another way we fictionalise our existence. Make ourselves entertain and be entertained.
On top of all this, the self-fictionalisation of your life has to be captivating. Something must always be made of the nothingness that we live on a day to day basis. E. M. Forster may have said that most of life is so dull there is nothing to be said about it, but I would counter with Wilde’s I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train. I like to think that, even though my life is rather boring, if someone were to pick up my journal and start reading it, they would be impressed, amused, intrigued, shocked and quite possibly appalled. I would, of course, die of embarrassment.
Still, if the whole world was once a stage, then my life exceeds it. My life is a book, a play, a film, a sitcom, a song, it is an endless array of fictional creations and expectations and experiences.
Sometimes I wonder quite where the fantasy of me ends and the reality begins.