Last year, on my birthday, I decided to keep a diary. Why? For various reasons, but for a start, here’s part of the very first entry:
“I was listening to a podcast featuring Richard Herring. In it he did a book reading, from his latest book, called How Not To Grow Up. The subject matter really resonated with me. Oh Fuck I’m Forty, and all that.
I’m not forty, but today I turned thirty.
In How Not To Grow Up, Richard talks about maturity and many other subjects. There was one part where he mentioned eating chicken, and pitying another overweight 30-something in the queue. Thankfully I don’t find myself that pitiful. Or do I?
No, I don’t.
The other thing Richard talked about was keeping a diary, alongside his more public blog. He can’t write about relationships online, as people might read it. The wrong people.
But when he came to write his book, the blog was only half the story. The diary was also very important.
So I thought “I should write a diary too!” Who knows, maybe in a decade I can look back at this part of my life and write a book based on my diary, and my blog, and the photos from the time. That probably won’t happen, but this could be fun. Maybe I’ll only keep it up for a week. Maybe a month. A year would be awesome. Or maybe until another random life event.”
That was on August 26th, 2010. It’s now August 27th 2011.
And it turned out that keeping a diary for a whole year was a fun experience. I wrote in varying detail about what I’d done each day, who I’d met, and the various bits of media I consumed.
More importantly I ended each day with “Thoughts:” and tried to set out what and how I felt about my current life, work, play, relationships, health, etc.
I learned a HUGE amount about myself. It’s like having an ultra-personal conversation with someone every day, and it made me think through many aspects of my life that previously would go unexplored.
Simply put, I think keeping a diary made me a better person.
And now I have 365 text files, each named for the date in a 20110826 format. So what next?
I’m going to stop writing my diary. The reasons are pretty simple, I think.
1. I’ve become way better at thinking things through. At the end of the day I’ve developed the habit of considering what I’m doing in life, and the actual writing it down is secondary to the mental exercise.
2. I think doing something like this for more than a year makes into a chore rather than a fun activity. I’ve set my self year-long goals before. For example, in 2002 I spent the entire year sleeping on the floor. The only time I slept in a bed was when invited in by a girl, and I thought it would be a stupid move to ask her to join me on the floor for the sake of a pointless challenge. And in 2003 I didn’t drink alcohol for an entire year.
So yeah, a year of doing something rather than not doing something is fun, and it lets me prove to myself how well I can stick at something.
3. My life has settled down a bit more. When I started writing the diary I had no girlfriend, and wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted out of life. Now I’m in a very enjoyable relationship and I’ve found some kind of direction again. Or re-affirmed my previous ideas.
4. TIME and ENERGY!
This is a big one. I’ll write up another blog post about just how much I wrote. But it took time out of every day, and if I fell behind it would take more time as I had to remember back.
In total I wrote, in the combined text from 365 days of diary entries, 210,019 words. That works out at 453 printed A4 pages.
If that was a novel, it would be a really chunky novel!
And as I also like to write novels, all my writing time, and all my writing head space in the evenings, was all going into my diary rather than into fiction writing. And even then I wrote about 50,000 to 70,000 words of fiction in the last year.
And not only fiction writing, but blog posts too. I used to get my thoughts down in writing when I had something to share here on the blog, but for the last year all my thoughts have gone down in my blog first… and then I’ve not written them up for a public audience.
So, for all those reasons, I’m going to stop writing my diary. Look out for way more content on my blog, and please don’t mind if some of it is slightly personal in nature. (Though not TOO personal, don’t worry!)