Sunday, June 29

an aside: personal journals as historical documents

Handwriting matters. Try for legibility.

Use durable notebooks.

Use durable ink. Avoid media which smudge severely or in general self-destruct rapidly.

Draw pictures of things and make maps.

Record addresses and phone numbers, that is all well and good. Next to these items, put down the names they are associated with.

Try to maintain sequence and unambiguous chronology. Use fully qualified dates, clearly marked, for every entry. When you start a book, write the date on the inside front cover. When you finish it, go back and add the date of the last entry. Always have a fresh book on hand. Only start it when you're finished with the previous one.

Use full names and reference dates rather than relative terms. Record a geographical & spatial context as well as an emotional & spiritual one.

Remember that, although the context is obvious to you in the act of writing, you will have forgotten most of it in a few years' time. Resist the temptation to be cryptic, elliptical, obscure, or ambiguous. All of these properties will emerge without your encouragement.

Make peace with the fact that any kind of journal you're likely to read over is already incriminating evidence. If important things happen, put them in. If you kissed someone, if you slept with someone, if you met someone you wanted to sleep with: Five years from now there is every chance that you will care about these facts and their shape and find in your record only a space where you can discern that something must have happened.