Keeping a journal

Over the years I have tried repeatedly to keep a journal of my daily life. I may never be Samuel Pepys, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in capturing my thoughts, even though they never leave my possession.

I used to consider this website a journal, and I guess in a way it still is. However, it is no longer a place for my unedited daily thoughts. I want to be more measured here instead.

But I still feel a need for a place to hold those raw thoughts. I’ve tried several paper journals; for a while in Moleskine notebooks, later in Field Notes books. These worked, but had the distinct disadvantages of needing to be at hand, and needing a pen.

The Moleskine was simply too large to expect to have on me at all times. The Field Notes were better, as they are the perfect size for a back pocket, but I still would forget them, and eventually the books themselves succumbed to the stress of living in my back pocket. Frankly I’m amazed my wallet survives.

And though there was a real, visceral satisfaction of pulling out an actual, physical paper journal and writing down my thoughts while getting coffee, or a beer, in reality that was mostly posing: the thoughts were important, but the action was just as important.

After my last set of Field Notes started to fall apart from constant carrying I stopped writing entirely for a while.

Salvation, of a sort, came about a month ago when Day One released an update to their iOS and Mac OS X journaling app. I had heard of Day One before, but not actually considered its worth in my daily life.

But even though I’d given up on carrying the Moleskine and a fancy pen, I hadn’t given up on journaling the day to day of my life. It is just too valuable to me to know what I was thinking in days, months, and years past.

I’ve been using Day One for nearly a month, and have written at least one thing all but two days since I started. It is present on my iMac, iPhone, and iPad, and the reminders I have set mean I never am short of a notice to write something about my life down. Because it is almost entirely meant for me, there is no pressure about censorship or dishonestly. I am the audience, and I want to tell myself the truth.

Because it is on my iPhone, it is with me everywhere I go, and is durable enough to stand up to daily abuse in my pockets. Truthfully it changes things to know my journal is always available and the only thing stopping me from writing is my own inhibition. If I can set that aside then I can capture my thoughts.

I love being able to capture photos along with those thoughts, and I’m impressed by the elegance with which those photos are shown. iCloud synchronization of everything is a lovely bonus.

My own workflow varies. Sometimes I write long entries on the Mac or iPad while sitting at a desk. Sometimes I’m on the go and I write shorter notes on my iPhone, and then I often include a picture taken with the iPhone camera. Often on iOS I capture text using Drafts at first, sending it off to Day One when my thoughts have been appropriately fleshed out.

I’m writing this to invite any readers and friends who also use a Mac or iOS to purchase Day One and to start recording their own lives. It’s rewarding. You may not be as pretty or notable writing on your phone as in a lovely paper journal with a fancy Japanese pen, but you’ll be able to read it later. And in more than one place.

My own next steps include transcribing my handwritten journals into Day One so they are preserved.

Writing is never in vain, even if never shared.

— Steve

Posted on 26 August 2012