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Tuesday, 02 November 2021


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I'm a poor diarist, writing in spurts, a few weeks here and there, sometimes with many months in between. But they add up, and I do enjoy opening up one from 20 years ago. Sometimes I even impress myself with some insight or phrasing I used back in the 90's. I kept a journal in my 20's that was a big sketchbook, maybe 11 x 14 or larger, so of course I also drew stuff in it. And my daughter helped herself to a couple entries after she learned how to write, wonderful to see now. Journals are highly personal, and in most cases of almost zero interest to others, unless you happen to be Olav Haugue, famous in Norway for his 20 volumes or so.

When I got to the program I started a diary [I called it a journal] that I maintained for several years. I wrote the day's events every night. Periodically, I'd re-read my entries reading backwards from the most recent day.
On multiple occasions there were troublesome situations whose answer or solution I had noted days before without realizing it at the time.
It was a valuable tool .

I have been journaling for decades. I have stack of the past journals but I rarely go back to them.

For me the real value in journaling is in the present. There is something about the kinetic act of handwriting my journal that helps me collect my thoughts and clarify, for me, my feelings and ideas. I feel there is a lot of value in the act itself even if I never go back and look at the writing again.

One last thought, the idea of 'one day at a time' works for writing or journaling as well.

I've been writing a journal since 1989. All about a fictional character named Nick Twisp. He's way more interesting than I am. Now writing Volume 13.

On the blog writing part, being a blogger myself. I have a fairly consistent readership, but only a few commenters, even when I specifically ask for comments. I think the problem is that many people are so busy (or perceive themselves as such) that they don't want to read something long. Or they mean to come back and read it, and never do. And actually writing something down is work for some people, and thats if the browser doesn't eat it along the way.

In a bigger sense, I agree with you about the decline of writing things down, but it's worse than that. It's the decline of memory in general. People rely on their phones to remember things. Then if the phone dies or is stolen they are helpless. How many phone numbers do you actually remember?

It's probably been a decade since I wrote a letter on paper (it made my grandmother's day to get a letter), and other than getting a letter from her, I can't remember the last time I got a personal handwritten letter.

I like the idea of journaling or a diary, which are subtly different things, and my blog acts as one to some extent. The trick is to do it every day so it becomes a habit. But if you can't write legibly (which is me after a few dozen words) then it's of no use. And an electronic journal is only as good as the device and application that it's on. I once nearly lost a novel because it was written in an old application and the new ones on the new computer couldn't read those files. Fortunately the old one could still start and I rescued text files.

Very interesting to read this post - probably for the second time. I was an avid journal writer from the age of about 18 through the time I met my wife.

Freshman and sophomore years of college, I summarized each semester. I spent my junior year abroad in Ireland and made a point to write every day. May of those pages were written after way too many drinks at 4am! Barely legible.

For the next ten years I continued to write multiple days per week. I wasn't actually sure why? But I felt compelled to write down my thoughts in real time. If a few days went by, the idea of NOT capturing my perspective at that moment in time weighed on me until I wrote.

Those books sit in a box in my basement. They have sat unread for 20+ years. There was a thought to burn them once I was married and then with kids. Certainly there are many stories in those pages that would be embarrassing if read by my wife or kids! The story, in the end, was that journey through your 20's, seeking a wife, a family and that next stage of life. After I started dating my wife, I never wrote again!??

I have become more comfortable with those books sitting there in recent years. I'm now 50 and my kids are 15 and 17. At his point, those stories might at least be relatable, even if still embarrassing.

I think what always fascinated me the most was how quickly your thoughts and opinions evolve. And it becomes very difficult to actually remember how you felt about something or someone at a certain time. I did write about meeting my wife later that evening. I love that I can read exactly how I described the moment THAT day. Over time, all of the edges of those memories get smoothed off, unless you have a real-time, first person record.

I think I still keep a journal, but it is almost entirely image based.

Hi Mike, part of your problem with Amazon may be that when I follow a link (I’m in Australia) , Amazon requires me to sign in , which then re-directs me to the Australian Amazon site. I’m not sure, but suspect that this invalidates the original link, and therefore any revenue sharing to you? Might be an issue for all of your followers from outside the USA?

I kept a journal a couple of times when I was younger. The first page of each attempt always started with an exhortation to others not to read further, making me think that there is lurking somewhere always a fear of committing one's innermost thoughts to a form accessible by others. I wonder whether less inhibited journal-istas are able to commit more to paper than I was.

The more curious phenomenon, for me, at least is the review of old contact sheets, which (given the frequency of my photographic habit) serve as a different sort of historical journal. I am finding that with certain photographs from the 1980's, I have no recollection of having made them at all. I find this very disconcerting, as I used to have a very good memory of each exposure, or set of exposures, that I made -- in fact these images served as an informal record of places visited and people encountered. But now they read as images of events that happened to someone else.

The latest version of this sense of historical/photographic dislocation came after the death of my father. I went looking for images of him in old rolls of my film. This is because once a loved one has died the number of images of them is capped and even imperfect pictures can become precious as sentiment and memory fray over time. I found photographs of my own father that I simply didn't recall taking. I wonder if journal-keepers find the same with entries they have made.

“I do have to say that TOP is not a diary and it's not actually personal.”

Since you posted this in 2015, this is now no longer truly accurate. TOP has become very much a weekly personal journal, Mike. Relatively little content dealing with photography or photographic arts. Even camera talk is infrequent and usually in a personal context. (Ex: Your new Sony.)

Not necessarily a criticism, just an update observation. You still seem to have an audience so it works for them!

I certainly don't keep a daily diary -- and never have. However, I have long kept a kind of diary, with entries where I make notes about anything and everything relating to things I'm thinking about a lot.

Needless to say I have a diary for photography thoughts. The most recent entry is my reaction to an interview in a magazine with a photographer I just discovered. Some entries are about posts on TOP, my reactions, and other peoples' reactions. ;)

A few years journaling now, over half a million words. An early morning routine includes writing (in ink, on ruled loose leaf paper) the days date and any immediate thoughts, todo items or memories from yesterday. It soon becomes a habit.

I started a daily journal in my mid-20s and kept it going for about 2 years. I can't remember why I started it but I wrote in it every morning while I drank my coffee. It was mostly records of what I did each day and its been fun to go back and read from time to time.

I started up the practice again in mid 2020 but it was harder to stay in the habit. I switched from writing a paragraph about each day to just bullet points on major things. I think part of the problem is that there wasn't much going on due to the pandemic. I finally threw in the towel on this round in Sept of this year. I'm not viewing it as a failure because I think it will still be valuable to be able to look back at even a small snapshot of this time in my life.

Right now I'm still keeping a calendar to mark trips, milestones in my son's life, and other big picture stuff to have a little bit of a record of what happened. Even at just 34 years old there's lots of things from my teens and early 20s that I have a hard time remembering so I hope that jotting things down will jog my memory later.

Mike, I like your new turn: fewer posts makes it easier for me to keep up, and more of them consider art.

I admire journaling. Sir Francis Bacon said something like: for conviction of mind one should develop skill in public speaking; for wit be practiced in conversation; for precision in thinking practice writing. Maybe there was another. Skill in debate develops logic?

In any case, few things confuse me more than my own first drafts.

I tried journals for a year. Too time consuming. I was too inclusive.

But for decades I’ve carried small pocket notebooks for jotting info, observations, ideas, and feelings as they come up. I don’t have a memory, I have notebooks. And when I’m confined to a rocker they’ll be a hoot to read.

I have kept a journal of haiku writing for at least a decade based around my daily happenings or feelings. Before that, sketch books with small scraps of writing accompanying the sketches. Some date back to my teenage life and now that I am in my early 60s, I enjoy having them. My partner has kept journals since high school and used a lot of the writing to create a biographical story with lots of adventures. They gave me a copy to read and I was delightfully surprised to read about my younger self (we met in 1982). I think keeping diaries or journals are a great gift to give oneself or to loved ones.

Ah! Bacon might or might not have written something about debate and logic. But he did write that Reading develops Depth of Mind.

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