For reasons that I can’t fully explain, I’m really drawn to the idea of keeping a diary. Here is my newest diary-keeping strategy:
I am a terrible, unsuccessful diarist. Nearly every year I try to write one on a daily basis, but I rarely get past the third week of February before I falter. The only year that I’ve managed to write on a regular basis was when I was 17 and living in Palmerston North; going to university, hating my course, separated from most of my friends and bored out of my skull. I filled many, many, A4 exercise books with my teenaged rants. And then – very foolishly, in retrospect – I burned this diary when I was 20, because I thought that I’d never want to read it again. I would love to read it now, even though it would be tremendously embarrassing.
Over the intervening years I’ve kept diaries and journals for a few months at a time, but I’ve never done it for an entire year. I have kept all of these diaries, and what cheerful reading they’ll make for whichever unfortunate character is responsible for clearing out my worldly belongings after I die (my diary-keeping episodes have often coincided with times of unhappiness, for various reasons). And if they’re not maudlin, they’re dull. I think I’m intimidated by trying to fill an entire page, even if it’s only fairly small. I just start feeling like my life is so unspeakably dull (and you, as my blog readers, can vouch for that) and I bore myself; I can’t keep writing.
This year I did think to get around the boredom by keeping a one-sentence journal (as per the very sensible suggestion by The Happiness Project), but here’s the thing: I only started doing that after failing to keep a ‘proper’ diary. So it felt like a cop-out. But then I saw a great idea while browsing through the stationery aisle at a local book shop (stationery is my crack): it was a diary that only had space for one sentence each day, but – and here’s the cool thing – it had space for five years’ worth of entries, enabling you to keep a multi-year record of one sentence entries. How cool is that! I imagine that might become slightly depressing to read in later years if you keep turning to pages that hold four years’ worth of entries for, say, 13 February, and every day just says ‘went to work and watched TV’, but on the whole I think it’s a good idea (and perhaps it would spur one on to do interesting things?)
Anyway, that diary was $40 or something and I’m a cheapskate, so I cheated by buying two softcover notebooks for $9.99 each and headed up each page with a date (and what a dull 30 minutes that was). So now I have a multiple volume multi-year diary and can legitimately write just one sentence each day. I’ve allowed three lines per year, which means that I’ll be able to squeeze seven years of entries into the same volumes (and I actually need to buy a third volume to pick up the last six weeks of the year, but there’s no great rush, I guess). Hurrah!