Keeping a Diary

I’ve been keeping a diary since the first day of 2006. I don’t quite remember what urged me to do so, but I can guess it must be something along the lines of wanting to preserve the events of my life. You look back into the past and see a fog. You do remember some events, but they are faded images in a haze. Keeping a diary is a way to put down a shadow of each day’s experience for future reflection.

I find it difficult to fully capture a day in an entry.  I often forget what exactly I did at a certain time during the day. I’m often too tired to want to write lengthy, detailed entries when I’m about to go to sleep so many of my entries don’t fully reflect my thoughts at the moment.

My diary is mostly a chronology. I write down what I did that day, with some pithy remarks expressing my opinion of them. For a while, I wrote as if the whole world was one day going to read my entries. Eventually, I started writing more personal things; I certainly wouldn’t want someone reading it now. Still, most entries are unremarkable. Once in a while, I go on an introspective tirade, usually after a significant event. I usually don’t pay attention to writing in complete sentences. I just put down what comes to my mind.

Until a year ago, I wrote on physical diaries. The shapes varied: I had a small fat one, a decently sized one, and a long thin one. The first two diaries had sections for each date of the year. This is a bad idea. You waste space when you write a short entry and are cramped for space when you have something long to put down. The third diary I had was essentially a hardbound notebook. I could take as much or as little space as I needed. I ended up keeping that diary past its one year, actually up until July of the next year.

Last July, I got a laptop for college and decided to move my entries to the digital world. It has been almost exactly one year since I’ve started writing in a Word file named Diary.docx. Every day, I just append the date, the entry itself, and the time at which I’ve finished writing. (I’ve put down the time of completion for several years. One day I’d like to compile them to see my sleep trends over time. A digital diary makes this easier, of course.) A digital diary makes is simple to search for when you started interacting with a certain person or to go back to a certain entry. Just make sure to back up the file.

Over the course of the past 365 days, I’ve written 60,251 words spanning 86 pages, single-spaced. That’s an average of just 165 words an entry. That’s probably because there were several weeks last semester when I neglected the endeavor. I’ve gone only a few long stretches without keeping up, the biggest one being a summer trip to India. It would have been great to keep those memories, but it was just hard to write when traveling. Each missed day makes it harder to write following entries.

I admit, it was hard to keep the habit in the beginning. You feel like you lose some freedom – the freedom to fall on the bed whenever you feel like it. But you gain a record of your past. It helps you hold on to your memories.

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9 comments
  1. Harika said:

    Nice one dear :)

  2. Anonymous said:

    Have you checked out penzu.com? Its an online diary that I use. The fact that it’s offsite and password protected means someone snooping around your computer won’t stumble into your diary by accident.

    • I haven’t heard of it. I had thought of looking at online solutions, but I decided against it. The main reason is data portability. A text file is easily portable to other formats. I don’t see a way of downloading my entries on Penzu. Maybe I’d like a desktop version of it that saves to a standard format like HTML. Being able to put multimedia in the entry is pretty valuable. Currently, I have the file synced on Dropbox, so it is well backed up. I still haven’t figured out a good way to add security to that file though.

      • Anonymous said:

        It is technically possible to export Penzu entries into multiple formats for you to download, but unfortunately that feature is only available in a “Pro” account that you have to pay for. As for security for a word doc, good old TrueCrypt would do the trick. A TrueCrypt volume should sync fine with Dropbox.

      • Ah, the functionality is there, then. Still, I’d rather not be tethered to a service. Off to learn about TrueCrypt for me! Thanks!

  3. eccentricaesthetics said:

    I’ve always been into recording what happens during my life also. I really like looking back on stuff in my journals because it allows me to reflect on what happened and I have bad memory so it’s always nice to have a reminder of the good times (although there are always those moments where I just sit there going, “Did that really happen?”)

    I remember keeping a digital journal but that didn’t go too well when I lost the flashdrive my journal was on and I’m usually too lazy to back stuff up. Ah. Besides, journals are so nice to look at (although expensive).

    • I found that it would take me more time to write in a journal than to type in one. Having as little of a barrier between my thoughts and putting them down as possible meant that I became more expressive and wrote with more detail. I do love looking at all those inky cursive words, but there is an advantage to this as well. I put my file in Dropbox, so it is backed up instantly.

    • Using anything other than Word reduces my freedom and data portability. (Granted I am attached to Word.) Or I can make a tool. Not impossible. I have some ideas for a fluid text-only journaling tool that writes to standard text files.

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