As a longtime diarist and notebook keeper, I was delighted to discover Writers And Their Notebooks (ed. Diana Raab) back in 2012. This collection of essays explores the various ways in which writers use their notebooks as a place of curiosity, self-discovery, and play.
In ‘Sea of blue ink’, Kathryn Wilkens suggests giving a title to each diary.
To maintain continuity, I title each volume. It was a chance occurrence that made me decide to do this. I’d already filled up three books. My grandmother, who grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky, gave me a family Bible that belonged to her mother. On the flyleaf, next to the birth dates of her children, she’d written, “1923, Locust Year.” Struck by the succinct evocativeness of those two words, I immediately went to the cedar chest and retrieved my completed volumes. I leafed through and found phrases that summed up what those years had been about.
I loved this idea and decided to take it one step further by giving every single entry its own title. This lent each day, no matter how ordinary and uneventful, some sort of magic. Challenging days were given their dramatic due and a humorous twist: Choppy, Shoppy Sunday – Cranky Valentine – The Smoke Wars. Upbeat days were celebrated with jazzy titles: Yay Cartooning! – I’m so Hip – Party! When the book was complete, I would choose one of the titles that seemed to sum up the journey recorded within its pages and use that as the title for the diary.
Looking back on some of those titles, I feel I am watching a trailer of the movie of my life so far, complete with snapshots of all the highs and lows. I can very much relate to Wilkens’ description of this experience:
I look back on all the completed volumes, written in a sea of blue ink. The moods undulate, now heaped up in a crest of success, excitement, and happiness, now sinking into a trough of frustration, boredom, and hopelessness. The lows and highs drift by in a regular pattern, each hollow trough followed by a foam covered crest. That’s the nature of waves and of life.
So, here it is: my stack of diaries from the last 3.5 years. (In rainbow order rather than chronological!) 21 diaries. 5,250 pages. Over a million words.