This will probably be one of several entries on the subject of journals and diaries. In my effort to make the writing of my kin accessible to my descendants, issues continue to arise, insights continue to resonate and I continue to be surprised, baffled and confounded.
Earlier I wrote about having completed the book my sister and I were preparing - Aunt Elsie's Diary. The date of publication is April 2008, and truly, I thought that project was FINISHED. I printed off copies, comb-bound them and sent them off to various people, one being my brother Barry.
Have I mentioned that I have great difficulty in seeing my own typographical errors? Likewise minor grammatical, syntactical and spelling errors? (I like to think I pick up the major ones.) My sister pointed out many of these for me as we went through the laborious, years-long process of transcribing those diaries, and I found a FEW errors as I was dealing with the format, pagination and so forth.
Then Barry got back to me, having started to read his copy of the book.
Barry knew Aunt Elsie a lot better than I did. After high school Barry had worked for a year at Valley Springs Ranch, therefore had had many opportunities for conversation with her, and for observation of the dynamics of the family then living there - Elsie and her husband Wesley, Elsie's brother Harry, and their sister Edith. While this was going on I was at the other end of the country, from whence I did not return for decades. This gave Barry a much better handle on interpreting what went on between the lines of the diary than I had.
Barry found MANY errors, some major, which have been easily corrected - in my computer! They remain in existence in the many copies of the book I sent out to various kin. More importantly, Barry found places where his knowledge and experience could provide footnotes. These too have been added to my computer copy and of course not to the printed copies. I have it in mind to send notes to all the recipients to tell them that what they have in their hands is the first edition, and that there will be other editions. Or I could sent them a page of corrections, only that is too embarrassing to contemplate.
Bottom line: NO project is EVER finished. ALL projects are works in progress.
This has been a disturbing bottom line to acknowledge. I had hoped it would be possible to FINISH a project, and move on. That doesn't seem to be happening. I knew, of course, that the genealogy data base would be constantly updated, so that if you asked for a printout today, it would be different - more people in it! - than the one I sent out to another cousin six weeks ago. But I had NOT expected that would be the case with the other projects.
So what should I do about this regarding the projects not yet printed? Perhaps yet another round of proofing before I print? Barry has offered that service to the effort and I propose to take him up on it. Son Jeffrey has made that offer as well. Sister Mary has helped all along. Perhaps in addition I need to put a caveat at the beginning, warning that I am human and therefore likely to err...but that should be obvious!
I suppose I could just finish my projects and send them out into the world and not worry about trying to achieve perfection (impossible in any case.) But when people come along with obvious improvements to the effort - like Barry's corrections and more particularly his enriching footnotes, I don't want to do that. Perhaps there will be a second edition in time, incorporating the changes.
Next post will be about the manner in which the writer of a journal or diary reveals - or fails to reveal - his or her character.