Anyone out there with old diaries? Why did you begin them and why do you still write them — or why did you stop? What formats do you use, and how do you store them? Are you worried someone else will read them or that you might lose them? Is your blog your diary, or do you see it as being separate?
I came across a 2009 article with many varied comments: Ask Unclutterer: What Should I Do With Old Journals? So many people out there wrestling with similar issues! Some burn or shred their diaries while others keep them safe or pass them on. I was concerned at the thought of them being destroyed, but the more I read, the more I realized it’s a very personal decision. Some diarists may feel their writings have no relevance to anyone, not even themselves. They worked through old problems and moved on, and don’t wish to go through any of it again. Others have no space and feel their families will want to lead an uncluttered life without being weighed down by a grandparent’s angsty old tomes. I can empathize with that thought. Would I want to take responsibility for a large collection of family history? I don’t know. I kept some of my grandfather’s old books but didn’t want all of them, foxed and old-fashioned as they were. He didn’t keep a diary but I would have liked one, maybe half a dozen. On the other hand, a whole boxful, supposing he’d been a serial diarist like me? Difficult to know.
Recently I mentioned personal projects and feeling unable to complete them. There are many things I begin and then forget about, or I don’t forget but start questioning myself, or become distracted by something else. One of these projects was to scan and index my old diaries. I used to worry about how I could search them for issues, dreams, recipes or events I knew I’d written about.
I tried writing with a digital pen but that was more work than it was worth. I had to clip a receiver to the book I was working on and keep my writing very straight and neat. I would upload the files onto my Toshiba laptop then edit them in the related software, only to find lots of errors to edit out. It was disconcerting how short the entries were… my handwriting made them seem long, but they weren’t! Later, some of the files disappeared, even saved ones, and the refill for the pen wasn’t available in the UK.
OK, that didn’t work.
I tried typing out journal entries from recently handwritten diaries, but that was boring and I could always think of something else I would rather do. Dropped that plan.
Then, of course, I started typing daily entries directly onto the Mac or the laptop, and quite enjoyed that, because it was easy to edit them and delete stuff I’d changed my mind about. I could also insert photographs. It wasn’t terribly relaxing, however, and I yearned to curl up somewhere comfortable and write what was on my mind without restriction, so bought an iPad. That worked very well for some years and I was careful about backing up — only lost one short paragraph when the word-processing app on the iPad failed to save. I just rewrote what I’d lost as it was still fresh in my mind, but I knew I couldn’t risk that happening again with a longer entry. It was due to lack of space, and I can fix that if I really put my mind to it, but I’ve not got around to it yet. I have to carefully transfer nearly 3GB of old Notes out of Mail. Some of these were diary entries themselves, so I can’t risk deleting them wholesale, and I can’t leave them in Mail where they might get synced into oblivion! Meanwhile the iPad gets older and the days are passing.
The diary must continue, so on 29 December 2018 I picked up a blank jotter from Woolworth and started writing. Now the diary-writing circle (circus?) is complete.
I still have older diaries to worry about, so scanning them seemed the quickest way of backing them up. In 2011 I randomly chose a big orange one, which I finished scanning just yesterday, 7 and a half years later! Shocking. But I’m delighted that I’ve finally completed one of these albatross projects; it’s put fresh heart into me. It can be done! I feel so heartened that I moved the scanner closer to the Mac (why didn’t I do that before?) to make scanning quicker and easier.
I’ve already scanned 31 pages and the front cover from a big pink 2010 diary. Having the colour cover scanned into the same folder will give me a visual reminder of which diary it was, and of course there’ll be an index to help me find things. I don’t need to copy all my diaries into text, especially as I’m still writing… it would be a never-ending task.
This reminds me of a Terry Pratchett book. In one of them, people’s lives write themselves into diaries in a strange library somewhere… was it on Death’s premises? If you were to go there and read your own, it wouldn’t be finished yet, and you would see the scrawl continuing as you looked. “I decided to read a blog post on Aw Diddums while waiting for my friends to turn up. I got to this point in the ramblings when suddenly the doorbell rang. I jumped out of my skin.”
No? Maybe you were reading someone else’s diary then. I can’t help it if you pick up the wrong book!
I don’t know, I’m probably wasting my time doing this, but I believe completing it will give me peace of mind, renewed self-belief, and maybe new ideas — or old ideas buried in old diaries that come to light again and are found. A new better-organized me beckons, and 2019 could be the year! Let’s get on with it.