Man walks into a column, no.14: Diaries

I’ve kept a diary for the past four years, with only short periods in which I failed to make daily entries at least three or four times a week. Earlier this year it was rare that I’d miss a single day. And yet for the last couple of months my entry rate has diminished to the kind of level where I question whether in fact it counts as ‘keeping a diary’ at all. Should I bother any more? I’m not sure I should.

My principal reasons for diarising were twofold. First, I’d become increasingly concerned about days blurring into weeks fading into months dissolving into years. A diary is a great way of simply saying ‘I was here’. Second, I think whatever I may’ve told myself to the contrary, I did harbour aspirations to sit in my dotage leafing back through the pages of my diaries, reminiscing about past adventures, predilections, preoccupations.

(The third, subsidiary reason is my fetishisation of the tightly bound handwritten page: that intoxicating combination of organicity and pattern; something I can recall feeling from my earliest days at school. A boy called Leigh Johnston was a precocious infant school writer and I vividly remember the envy I felt for his exercise books full of pre-pre-pubescent flights of fancy.)

Problem is, as always: time. My free time, which is usually to be found in the morning and evening is so easily gobbled, and most recently I’ve found that, given the choice, I would rather use any alone time to read or blog/tweet than write in my diary. Also, since I’ve been blogging on a weekly basis, and tweeting a little more frequently too, the two main reasons for diary-writing have been undermined.

My only real concern about giving up the diary would be that I would have nowhere to work through knotty personal uncertainties and dilemmas, and make a record of a decided course of action and the rationale for it. It’s this function where, for me, a diary has really excelled – there’s no substitute for writing something down when it comes to thinking something through – and I have absolutely no intention of doing this in public, on a blog. But of course there’s no reason I can’t still use my diary to do this, whenever such an issue arises. I’ll just not bother to fill in the blanks when things are ticking along.

Am I giving up too easily? Are there any devoted diarists out there who’ve managed to maintain a steady routine in the face of myriad competing foci? If so, what were your reasons? Answers on a neatly handwritten Moleskine page, please!

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