Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Have you ever kept a diary? If so, why? How long did you last? What sort of things did you write in it? Did you write in it every day? Only when something interesting happened, or did you write EVERYTHING in it? How much did 'everything' include?

If you did (or do) keep a diary, how is keeping a diary different from blogging? (Aside from the public/private thing, of course – which is HUGE, I know.)

Something I just read (in a passed-on New Yorker) has got me thinking about this.


Lia said...

I've kept diaries since I was in sixth grade, although the actual writing part got more infrequent as I grew up. I started with a pretty diary with a lock and key that I had given a name (to be like Anne Frank's "Dear Kitty"). That diary was a lot like blogging: daily events and rants at people who annoyed me. I wrote in it pretty frequently.

I still have a diary, but I don't write about my regular day anymore. That record is in my to-do lists at work and on my blog for my life. My blog has events, funny things that struck me, rants and anti-rants. My diary is used more now for introspection, for sorting through decisions that need to be made or feelings I can't get a handle on.

Carrie said...

I was never good at keeping diaries, even though I really wanted to. I would have them, then write one or two entries and forget them. It always felt so useless to write something that no one was ever going to read. I think that's why I've been able to stick with blogging lo these many years. People do read it. It isn't exactly a diary, though because I have learned to edit out some of the things I know will be offensive/cause reactions I don't want to deal with.

Lulu said...

I have kept a diary on and off since I was about 8. I keep one now too, started near the beggining of last year (Although between May-Aug I didn`t write in it)...Before this I hadn`t kept one since I was in highscool (apart from travel journals). I suffered from severe depression before I was put on medication when I was 16 (I have gone off it before although it seems it will be a lifelong have never been off them for more than a month) and my diaries from before I turned 16 are pretty intense. I am so glad that I rarely have the feelings I had from when I was that age.

I almost always keep a diary while travelling also. Mainly it is filled with observations, what I did and postcards/pictures and momentos.

My personal diary that I have at the moment, I carry around with me everywhere and tend to write in it more on weekends when I have time but also a couple times during the week. Definitely not everyday.... but sometimes i will sit down to write and knock out 5 or 6 pages while in a coffee shop! It is filled with pictures, pieces of paper/ postcards I like, letters as well as my own thoughts, concerns, lists (Including random stuff like stuff to do and lists of recipies I want to try)..Sometimes I will write a note saying *blog about this

Keeping a diary is different to blogging for me because I am not annonomous on my blog at family and friends also read it where as I would probably never show my friends or family my diary. That said sometimes I will point out something in it to a friend and let them read it if they wish...My bf picks it up sometimes and asks me to read it to him....Sometimes I will, but I think he just likes it because hearing me speak in English puts him to sleep!

Do you mind me asking what you read in the NY times that promted the post?

Have I rambled enough (My diary is filled with rambles!)

Lulu said...

Keeping a diary also helps me sort out my thoughts without having to bother other people with them!

Keera Ann Fox said...

I have kept a book (over the years, several) that I write personal thoughts in, mainly to sort out my thinking or get things off my chest. More like written meditation than a summary of the day. I have a private blog I use for that so I can write wherever I am. Trying to write about my day-to-day stuff has never worked (which makes blogging daily a challenge). Once I gave up the guilt-trip about not writing every day, I actually enjoyed having a diary.

StyleyGeek said...

I kept diaries from when I was 10 until I was 18, and I still have them. It's horribly embarrassing to read them now, but also kind of neat to have the record of that former me. I can't imagine keeping a diary AND a blog, though, since I'd either be repeating myself, or would run out of material for one or the other. Mainly the diaries I kept when growing up were where I described special events, trips, and other occasions I wanted to remember. I also wrote in them when I was extremely sad or happy about something.

My aunt once showed me her "diary" proudly. I could. not. imagine. why she bothered to keep it. It read like this:

"Monday 14th. I ate a cheese sandwich. Milked the cows. Talked to John. Went to bed early.

Tuesday 15th. I milked the cows. Had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watched the news on TV. The roses are blooming in the garden."

Etc. The entries really were that short and mundane.

She had kept it for forty years.

Badaunt said...

Lia: I suspect that for many people the 'sorting through decisions that need to be made or feelings I can't get a handle on' is the main reason they end up keeping a diary, even if it's not the reason they started. But I might be projecting . . .

Carrie: Apart from a couple of periods in my life when a lot of stuff was happening and I needed to sort things out (like Lia's reasons), and when I'm travelling (as a memory aid), that's pretty much been my experience. I can't figure out WHY to keep a diary.

Lulu: Keeping a diary during the teenage period makes sense to me, because you go through so much 'sorting out' in your head and life and so on. Or during hard times, when you have hard decisions to make and need to think about them. Writing, for me, helps me to think clearly and somehow detach myself so I can make more sensible decisions. But for everyday life, I find it harder to 'get' the point of diary-writing. Blog writing has rewards (comments! readers! new friends!) but diary-writing . . . for me it doesn't work. And that's why I wonder why other people do it, I guess.

Oh, and the place I read about diary-writing was not the NY Times, but the New Yorker magazine. It was the 2007 Dec 10 issue.

Keera: The guilt about not keeping up on a daily basis was my first experience of diary-writing, from when I was first given a diary, which had a page for each day. I became (by the third day) reluctant to open it, because I knew I'd see blank pages and feel as if I'd wasted them. It felt like an OBLIGATION rather than fun.

Later when I used a diary for more concrete reasons (to find out what I was thinking, mainly!) I didn't have a page-per-day diary, but just a notebook, and it was more useful (and less guilt-inducing). But I only found it useful sometimes. I didn't want to write every day (except for a couple of months when I did, but that was because of what was happening during that time), and eventually I stopped altogether.

Styleygeek: The embarrassment of reading my own diary was what made me decide, at one point, to only write cheerful. I found it really, really hard. It was easy to whine, but harder to write happy.

It worked, though. Writing happy made me happier.

Your aunt's diary FASCINATES me, in the way that only something truly boring can fascinate. What is all that about, do you think? What does she think she is achieving? Why does she do it? Why does it make her happy to write like that? (It must make her happy, surely, or she would not do it.)

Does she have some idea of what she will do with these diaries eventually? Does she have plans to pass them onto grandchildren or something?

When I first was given a diary, when I was about 12 or thereabouts, I thought that was what they were - a daily record of the boring details of daily life. I didn't last more than a few days with that, and can't even IMAGINE what would induce a person to keep it going for forty years. There must be something satisfying in it that I missed completely.

Keera Ann Fox said...

How interesting! Writing happy makes one happy. I sort of understand the logic behind that, but hadn't really thought about it. I do find, in my own personal writings, that I cannot leave things with a sad ending, as it were. I must have either a happy ending or a plan to make a happy ending.

And, yeah, pre-dated pages suck.

Re people who write a log, rather than a diary, those sort of diaries have actually helped historians in recreating past habits, weather conditions, etc. (Though I suspect that such diaries were a bit more informative than Styleygeek's aunt's. OTOH, if one reads enough such entries, they do give clues to how the writer was doing.)

Contamination said...

For me I keep a schedule for the ordinary things and my blog as a diary for the more important things.

With a diary it will only be read by yourself or family after you are dead. I can't deal with that, so I blog almost every day and share it with the planet.

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I also kept diaries regularly when I was young and a teenager. The stuff I wrote as a teenager got quite dark, as you said, it was one of those "sorting out" periods in my life. The bad thing is, my mother read it and there was a lot written in there about how much I hated her (at that time). I felt pretty bad about it after I grew up a bit.

Later in life I kept dream diaries for a while, through that I was able to start lucid dreaming, pretty cool stuff.

Now, I only write travel diaries when I'm away and occassionally draw in my "visual" diary - ideas for new projects.

I'm interested in what the New Yorker said about diaries.

Faerunner said...

I got my first diary for a birthday (maybe my 13th, I'm fuzzy about it). It's still somewhere at home, a lovely little pink one with an angel on the cover and one of those cheap, easily-broken locks that never really kept my sisters out.

I kept it for about a year and a half, writing on and off, before my mother bought me another one (probably expecting that I had filled the first) and I moved on to that one. Over the years I also used notebooks during school (because who wants to carry an obvious diary with them in the halls?), but more recently I've used my computer.

I type faster than I can write, and when I first got my computer set up in my room it was running Linux (per my request) so I had neither internet access nor many games to play. Writing on that computer became a good pastime and I got more done creatively, as well as being able to use it for a running log of my teen-aged thoughts. It's scary at times to re-read my life, but I still have the original .txt file and I occasionally still add to it.

The Editter said...

Hmmmm... I'm wondering what to do with all my old diaries! I certainly don't want anyone else to read them, but I feel an obligation to reread them in case there's something insightful in there that I can gain from. But I only wrote in them when I wasn't happy, so never feel like reading them! I should just burn the lot!! And of course I could never keep up with a diary and a blog. I don't do either at them moment!