I’ve gone back and forth on these throughout my life. At one point, I had very elaborate ones. Then, for years, I did a hard reversal, and had none. Now, I’m trying to come somewhere back towards the middle – and then come farther out still, to the planning side.
Extreme planning. It’s a big departure for me, so I’m crawling my way towards it.
To get there, I’m going in the other direction first: recording my life, keeping a journal. One day at a time.
Now in digital form.
I started this habit five years ago, when I first joined Google Calendar. In the beginning, I’d just hastily note down the main things that happened on any given day, days after the event. Supermarket. Saw John. Niko Niko’s w/Joe. There were big holes that I left, so when I got into the habit, I started filling them in; now each week had at least a few events per day. And there were stretches where I fell off the wagon, and barely recorded five or six things per week.
Then I started to appreciate it, and wrote more; and finally I achieved a kind of continuous stream of events – work, work, dinner, run, visit w/friends. I had advanced to the level where every day had a record, at least; but there was no notation, no commentary – just the barest facts.
So time went on, and I advanced yet again.
I started writing comments, especially for comment-worthy events (particularly relationships). This ended up being a useful corrective to my memory. As I thought of them, most relationships, in my head, were wine and roses; but as I kept a day-to-day diary and returned to them, I could see, no, they’re not.
Every relationship has days where you wonder why you’re there, and the calendar really brought that home. I remembered the great weeks with perfect recall, but not the days of malaise, until I was able to connect my own words with the days and see the truth. Not so great.
The old days.
That was the surprise about keeping a diary: it revises your memory downwards. Things were less good than you remember. So sayeth the diary.
So I advanced from this, too, and moved on to the next step: recording everything.
Everything has a comment; everything is covered. Conversations, bike rides, fights, dinner entrees. The week at a glance; no more dark spaces, no more ‘what was I doing then.’ You know. You commented on it.
It takes about a half-hour a day. In a way, the writing on this blog is an extension of it, since that’s how I built the desire and the discipline to do it. I can scroll through weeks at a time now and, at a glance, figure out where I was, and how things changed.
There’s no substitute, really. It tends to pull things into your awareness that otherwise disappear. It makes you more of who you are, by showing you all you’ve done, and then wrapping it in a temporal context, in the weeks and months around it.
You can’t get that kind of overview any other way, that summarization of a summarization that drops you in at any point in the stream, and gives you instant illumination.
So I recommend it.
I’m hoping that, by branching out from the very literal, very this-then-that format of the diary, I’ll be able to expand my writing, and my thoughts, towards broader ideas, and more experimental directions.
Because there’s a limit to diary-writing, too: what didn’t happen, isn’t written. You can’t experiment much with the past. This is free-form; anything goes. Mind going where it wills.
More productive than blind web-surfing, anyways.