on keeping a diary

I’ve a huge box inside my wardrobe back home overflowing with notebooks. From hardcover to softcover to ringbound to leather, in all colours and sizes and patterns, over the years I’ve collated an impressive collection. They’ve each got their own use, too, from story drafts to schoolwork to future plans. But whilst many of those are cringeworthy or pointless to look back on, the ones I always love rereading are my old diaries.

on keeping a diary

My first diary dates back to when I was six. It’s full of bizarre considerations and recollections, often trying to work out what the adults around me are talking about, but it doesn’t last beyond a few months. Another notebook includes one started a few years later which lasts a little longer, and again a year or so later. Thus it continues for the next few years; often I’d start writing on my birthday, and again at the beginning of an academic year, in the hope of documenting the year ahead, but though it would start well it would often deteriorate over time.

Towards the end of Year 9 I began another diary and succeeded at writing regularly for a long time afterwards – I kept this one up all the way through Year 10, and it’s my favourite to look back on. There’s so much promise and hilarity on every page – each day was accompanied with a ‘quote of the day’ from my school friends and I still laugh at every single one.

As I headed into Year 11 I switched from handwriting in a notebook to typing up my diary entries on my laptop. I continued this habit through into Year 12, although many of these pieces of writing were lost when my hard-drive malfunctioned. Despite this I continued typing journal entries every few months or so through my final year at sixth form, and during my gap year I documented most of my volunteering, which was my main activity at the time, here on the  blog, followed by a summer onehundred attempt.

However, when typing entries I’d found that I spent hours carefully curating typed blogposts until they read like works of fiction, and although I’m quite proud of some of that writing it didn’t feel authentic or truthful. As a result, when I started university I decided to head back to my roots and pick up a new notebook for my first year. I wanted to write as regularly as possible but it never quite happened; instead I picked it up every month or so, to jot down the main events (and there were many!) since I last wrote.

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Over Easter I spent time looking back at all of these diaries, and it occurred to me just how important they are to me. Having this semi-constant document of my life for the last fourteen years is incredibly special, even if it’s inconsistent at best. It’s interesting to compare my diary writing to my blogposts – they’re often incredibly different, which is why I’m keen to keep up both. But by far my favourite diary entries to read are my ones from Years 9 and 10, when I wrote almost every day.

It’s quite magical to so instantly be transported back into my high school life, with every aspect noted down to be remembered. Although the big events are easily recalled, tiny details, in-jokes and memories which at the time were so hilarious or important are often forgotten; rereading those journals is like greeting old friends. That’s what I want to recreate here at university, where things are so unstable. This will always be a complicated year to look back on, and I’d like to have something honest to tell me the true story.

All this being said, I don’t want to be too strict on myself – I know that every single day won’t always be possible, so I want to aim for five days a week. It’s not actually difficult to make the time. I like it to be the last thing I do before I go to bed, so I can work through the day and leave it behind before I go to read and sleep, so I’ve got an alarm set for when I need to stop what I’m doing and start getting ready for bed. Making it part of the routine to write for half an hour or so doesn’t make a huge difference to my everyday, but I think it will when I look back on it in the future.

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Do you keep a diary or journal? Let’s have a conversation – comment below!

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3 thoughts on “on keeping a diary

  1. Perhaps you should collate those youthful diaries into a book one day, Lucy? In twenty or so years time, they will be an interesting memoir of times that will have changed considerably. I wish I had done something similar, fifty years ago. They would be almost historical in value now, given the changes in everything from decimal currency, to living standards..
    Best wishes, Pete.

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