One of the things that people tend to start around this time of year is a diary. They usually get filled for as long as your new year’s resolutions last.
However, I’ve been writing in my current diary for a while. It’s a Moleskine extra large ruled Notebook in beautiful Prussian Blue, covered in whatever stickers pass over my desk. (Hint: find my address and send me stickers Internet.) This is much more preferable to a ‘real’ diary because I can leave a few days and then resume. I can also take breaks and write out a bunch of notes on Org-mode or the Julia programming language if I want to (and yes, I did).
The guilty expanse of pages left by days and weeks unfilled are what get me every year, despite my best attempts at forming a routine. Ironically, it’s often a busy spell, or precisely the sort of tumultuous ruction to daily life that one writes a diary in order to record, that ends up doing for my diary every year.
Using a regular notebook has proved to be a game changer. I started it in 2022 when we went on holiday to Frome. I wasn’t writing here very often at that stage and I thought some handwritten notes might be the best way to capture some of the holiday. Alongside all the usual photos and postcards of course. The idea was that the notes and photos and postcards could then be corralled in order to reboot this blog a bit. Well, that didn’t happen.
Our holiday was at the same time as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. Obviously, a lot of what I wrote about that was more private and subjective. The contrast of the pomp and circumstance to the feeling among people in the streets with other issues like the cost of living… needless to say, I could feel it and jot it down, and then not write about it later. I wrote other stuff about Frome itself, people Ingrid and I observed and so on, but none of it needed to be written up or used in another way. The writing itself became a form of processing emotion, detaching it from my mind, examining it and working out how to use it going forward.
After we got back, the notebook sat around on various shelves for a while. Sometimes I carted it to bed with the aim of writing about the day. Now and then, I scribbled in it while working, usually when it was obvious that a particular piece of code was more for me than for work. Later, I wrote about how terrified I was of going to see The Orb in Brighton later on that October. It turned out fine, so the notes are an interesting (and private) counterpoint to my review of that gig.
Now I write entries nearly every other day, though I did take a break for Christmas. It’s not really a diary for the nice things that happen. As the title of this post implies, my entries are usually concerned with what goes wrong in a day. It’s therapeutic to say that such-and-such a person did X or Y and because of that they’re an idiot. Or “I don’t understand why person X does Y when they could do Z”. It’s good to get it out. The best part is that I have a tendency to then work through those issues and problems, to work which ones are solvable, which ones require me to reframe things, and which ones require me to take some action. In short, I write down all the conversations I used to have with myself in the dark!
This is not a foolproof method. I still feel stress and anxiety. I and lots of other people are still idiots. But it does help. I write. I try to tie everything up so I have enough time to read something as well. I put the pens down. I move the ribbon, close the book, and pull the elastic band around the covers. The day done, bound up in the negativity casket until next time.