The Diarist

Maria on the wonderful Brain Pickings site has written before about writers who were diary keepers.  The list of famous diarists, authors and others, is long. I have been a diary keeper since I was 13. Well, let me define that a bit.

If you define a diary as a book in which you write down your personal experiences and thoughts each day, then I never was a diarist. I never was disciplined enough to do it every day. I tried but there were days when nothing seemed worth recording. If I let a few days go by unrecorded, I often couldn't recall what happened.

I have always referred to my volumes as journals which can be done occasionally with no required regularity. My journals of the past few years have been done by the month. I scribble notes as the month unfolds (dinner with Elizabeth, presentation in Houston, poem published, sprained wrist, visiting in NYC...) and then sit down at the end of the month to expand the notes.

Maria recently posted about Leo Tolstoy who in his youth kept a journal as a "record of his moral and spiritual development." My youthful writing was never so lofty. Reading it today, I am amazed at the lies. I seemed to have some idea that it would all be read one day by others. My biographer? Tolstoy's diary of old age became "reflections on the meaning of existence, gleaned from a long, imperfect, yet vibrantly lived life." The final year of his diary was translated into English and posthumously published as Last Diaries, which seems to be out of print (though there are other versions).

This year, I started trying to keep a small record of my daily activities. I took one of those daily reminder books that only allow a few lines per day. Not too much required of me. And yet, I still miss a few days and then can't recall what happened.

It is no diary or journal replacement. It might be a nice memory jogger some day when my memory is even worse than it is now.

Events can be big - my son's recent wedding day - or quite uneventful - "spent a rainy day trying get through the pile of magazines."

One of the results of such a record is -on the negative side - a reminder of how little I seem to accomplish. But these days, I can be more positive about things and I view this new exercise as a reminder that life is made up more of uneventful days - and that can be a very good thing. I'm hoping for many more uneventful days.

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