The Diary—A Trustworthy Friend
A DIARY can be a trusted companion, an empathetic friend in an unsympathetic world. A diary “allows us to leave a collection of still lifes that records our personal journeys,” says writer Christina Baldwin. Like a photo album that visually chronicles our past, a diary provides us with written “snapshots” that reveal and preserve the passage of our lives.
In Bible times governments often kept track of significant events. The Bible itself refers to a number of such official accounts. (Numbers 21:14, 15; Joshua 10:12, 13) The Greeks developed a type of almanac called ephemerides,* where they recorded the daily movements of the stars and the planets. The Romans, who conquered Greece, adopted the use of these journals but, with characteristic practicality, enhanced their value by adding daily events of community and public interest. They called them diarium, which comes from the Latin dies, meaning “day.”
It was not until the 17th century, however, with the writing of the journal of Englishman Samuel Pepys, that the diary as a repository of private everyday events became popular in Western lands. Containing an unusual mix of piety and worldliness, Pepys’ diary has given historians one of the most insightful accounts of life under the English monarch Charles II.
From that point on, journal keeping became increasingly popular. Many diaries have even become valuable historical documents. Noteworthy among these is the journal of a young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis. Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl is a searing testament of man’s inhumanity to man.
What Is the Appeal of the Diary?
Writing in a journal seems to address a fundamental human desire—self-expression. Whether recording our joy at a baby’s first words or the growth of a loving relationship, a diary permits us to reflect on the events that shape our lives. Reading the entries later allows us to relive those precious moments and the feelings they engendered.
One of the diary’s greatest advantages is its ability to help us to know ourselves. Writer Tristine Rainer calls it “a practical psychological tool that enables you to express feelings without inhibition.”
The Bible says at Proverbs 12:25: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down.” If a person is reluctant to talk about his “anxious care” with someone, expressing himself in writing may be an alternative. Journal writing is thus often suggested as a helpful tool in dealing with emotional pain. A diary can become a place to reflect on one’s life, set new goals, and perhaps work out solutions to problems. Writing about one’s problems and feelings can help one to focus on the real issues and put them in perspective.
Keeping a diary can also be an educational tool. The American Federation of Teachers advises parents: “Encourage your children to keep a diary. Writing in a journal develops writing skills and creativity.”
How Do I Get Started?
First, find a quiet place and a journal or notebook that you are comfortable with. Admittedly, an empty page waiting to be filled can be quite intimidating. But the key is to be honest, spontaneous, and simple. You might ask yourself questions such as: ‘What did I do today? How did it affect me? What did I eat? Whom did I see? What is going on in the lives of those whom I care about?’ Or you might begin with the present moment, asking: ‘Where am I in life right now? What are my goals? My dreams?’ Then, without being critical, let the writing flow.
Write as much or as little as you like. Write as often or as seldom as you like. Be open and candid. Do not worry about grammar or spelling. No one else will see your work. You might try pasting in photographs, newspaper clippings, or anything else that is important to you. It is your book. It can be neat or sloppy, small or large. And you only have to write when you want to. If diary keeping becomes a rigid duty, you will set yourself up for failure and disappointment.—See box.
Just as a scientist may use a journal to observe and record changes in some organism that he is studying, a diary may help you to observe and study your own behavior patterns and tendencies in your life. Your journal will reveal your joys, your pains, your weaknesses, your strengths. It will improve your ability to express yourself. True, keeping a diary demands commitment, but such commitment can offer rich rewards.—Contributed.
From the Greek ephemeros, meaning “lasting for one day.”
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Tips on Getting Started
◆ Choose a journal that is durable, perhaps easy to carry.
◆ Find a quiet time and a place where you can be alone. Date every entry.
◆ If you miss a few days, do not panic; just pick up where you left off.
◆ Do not criticize your work. Be free, and let the words flow. Record details—do not just generalize.