Just before New Year I was given a very attractive five year memory book. Essentially there are 365 pages, each page being designated for a particular day and each entry appearing five times on a page. The premise is that you just add the year and then write a line or two in the box – every day for five years. Because of the way the book is structured, you can then look back at any particular day and see what you had on your mind on that day over the course of the five years. It’s a way to keep track of both the everyday and the exceptional events in your life – but in brief, rather like a Twitter-log, so that you don’t have to feel that it takes up a lot of your time or mental energy to keep it up to date.
The quandary I face is that I’ve actually kept a journal/diary and then a blog for many years and my entries tend not to be particularly concise. Whilst I do subscribe to Twitter and have learned to keep within the 140 characters that it dictates, my posts tend to be along the lines of passing thoughts or comments. I see the line-a-day diary entries as more personal and perhaps even meaningful, but have realised that I need to ‘Twitterise’ them so that they fit into the space provided in order for them to be succinct and interesting.
Thinking about all this brought to mind a Bernice Rubens book I read a while back. A Five Sentence is is about Miss Hawkins who, on retirement, is presented with a five year diary. For various and complex reasons, Miss Hawkins feels compelled to write in the diary – but has nothing to write about. So instead of writing about what she has done, she writes about what she will do – and then follows through on what she has written as though the entries are instructions, returning to tick the items off with a red crayon when she’s completed them. It’s a strange and disturbing little book, but a beautiful example of character development and clear, crisp prose. Sadly, I leant my copy to someone. Happily, I just found that it’s available as an Ebook and have downloaded it to reread.
Miss Hawkins and her five year diary, along with my attempts to Twitterise my thoughts for my five year diary, resulted in rumination as to the nature of compulsion and as to why people keep diaries/journals/blogs (of whatever sort). Some reading on the topic suggests that the reasons for doing so are probably as diverse as the people who keep them, ranging from tracking daily and/or special events to annotating holidays, from writing practise to therapy.
In my own case it started out as a means to discard or offload thoughts and feelings that I didn’t want to or couldn’t share with anyone else. I was a moderately introverted teenager and had a range of complex issues to manage on my own, so I was basically writing to myself – and it worked very well. I was able to live in the moment and not hang onto angst or issues unduly and, as a result, to become somewhat pragmatic about life. This has served me well over the years.
More recently I’ve taken to writing for a wider audience, sharing my thoughts with others as a way of broadening the scope both of what I write and what I think about — and I enjoy it. This brings me back to day six of my line-a-day five-year-diary. I’ve managed five days of short entries and I think I’m getting the hang of it. I just hope that the three ladies in my life who ended up with one of these diaries at much the same time are busily writing in theirs each day too…