A New Diary

This entry is part 15 of the series How to Journal

Every year, when I was a child, my mother gave me a diary. Perhaps she thought if I spent some time writing about my daily life, I would experience some sort of epiphany and change into a better person.

I always loved my new diary. I would stroke its cover and lift it to my nose. Mmm. I’d close my eyes and think of all the wonderful, exciting things I would do during the coming year, and how I would record them in my diary. And of course the knowledge that no one else would read it made it even more promising.

Every year, my diary started out with, “It’s Christmas! Today I got . . . ” and a list of all my Christmas presents. Sometimes I made it to New Year’s day, or even a few days beyond. Usually my diary ended on about the 27th of December.

I think one of the reasons for my repeated failure in the World of The Diary, was the thought that diaries had to be a record, a very full record, of my entire day. And of course, that was impossible. I spent far too much time climbing trees, rushing to finish my homework (that was in the days when I still did homework) so that I could go and play, avoiding my parents wrath over the latest misdemeanor, and going for long walks with my dog in the monkey-infested bush near our home.

Childhood was great, full of adventures, mainly of the made-up kind. There wasn’t time to write in a diary. That felt too much like homework.

I grew up and stopped getting diaries. I knew I wouldn’t write in them. There wasn’t enough time in the day.Then I got cancer. I had so many things I needed to remember, I got myself another diary. Only this was bigger, and had the times listed down the side.

In an attempt to get away from the picture of long hours of filling in my day’s events, which I knew I wouldn’t do, I decided to call it my journal.  I started jotting down thoughts, events, and how I felt, next to the appropriate time. It was incredibly self-centred. Folk that have been through aggressive treatment for cancer know how your entire life concentrates on survival.

And that’s what my journal was. A survival manual.

And that’s a thought I want to leave with you.

Don’t even try to write your life’s story—unless you have visions of publishing a trilogy on your life. And beware! Bribing family members to read it could be a costly business.

Keep it short and to the point. Jot down an event you want to remember, preferably soon after it’s happened. How did it make you feel? Any particular memory? The smell?

Don’t try to write well. Just get it down. You’ll be surprised how often you can use those memories, which you would have forgotten if it wasn’t for your dia . . . journal.