The daily diary experiment has completed its first year. I’ve decided to keep it going. I’m not sure if I’ll continue it over all five years the journal provides space for, but I’m willing to keep up the practice within that particular uncertainty framework.
Turns out, recording daily situations and activity cataloguing comprise a collection activity that makes sense to me. I also think I kept it up because of some really low bars for success I evolved over the year.
Success parameter #1: The space allotted for writing is small. Unstructured journals where I could write pages and pages one day or a single sentence the next left me with too many possibilities. A diary entry in such a journal could conceivably take thirty seconds or multiple hours. That kind of range possibility can make me default to the longest entry-writing duration period in my mental time calculations and lead to not writing the entry because it might take too long. Nugget diary-ing takes that particular pressure off.
Success parameter #2: I didn’t care what I recorded. Every time I tried to set rules for the content I would include, I eventually failed to maintain those rules. And every time I failed, I did not florp about in despair. I abandoned the new rules and did whateverthefuck I wanted, just so long as I wrote something down. This led to some intense periods of highly regulated entries (dreams only! single experience descriptions only!) interlarded among pretty standard here’s-what-I-did-today entries.
Success parameter #3: I permitted reconstruction. I didn’t write in my diary every day. Sometimes I failed to do it for three or four days in a row. Giving myself the leeway to backfill a few days kept things civilized between the extreme completionist and the contrarian slacker residing in my brain.
The diary is a record of a particularly turbulent and painful year, but also a record of a lot of amazing accomplishments. The health and job upheavals of the first half of 2015 led to the space I needed for emotional and artistic growth in the second half.
However, the turbulence of last year makes me wary of one of the features of my diary: I can read what I was doing or feeling exactly one year earlier when I go to write my daily entry. I’m not sure how much I want to be reminded of what I went through last year. A year’s distance sometimes gives perspective, but other times the past makes me confront stuff I may or may not be ready to tackle yet.
Success parameter #4: Reading last year’s entry is not required. And on some days should be avoided.