Una paginus per diem rejicit medicus.

by Scribble Monboddo

New year's resolutions being potentially life-affirming but infamously tricky things, I'm willing to bet there are a few readers who were determined to start work on keeping a diary or journal this year - and are already finding it a bit of a challenge just a week in to the task. Well, don't despair; we have ways of making you talk. Helpful ways, hopefully...

So, first things first; there are no rules other than those you wish to accept or create. If you've tried following someone else's formula and it hasn't quite worked for you, change the rules until it does. Unless you are writing with a view to eventual publication (and please, check that ego if you are), the point of keeping a diary is to meet your needs rather than anyone else's. I'm happy to tell you a bit about what works for me and some other folk, but these really are just starting points. If the starting point you adopted on New Year's Day didn't quite work out, don't waste time feeling guilty about it - just try something different!

Where to go next depends to some degree on what your overall goal is. If you're seeking to become better organised and use your time and energy where it will do the most good, there is heaps of material about bullet journalling, and the owner of Nero's Notes himself will be delighted to recommend both technical guidance and indeed some very nice notebooks to use to this end. It's fair to say that a lot of people find it positively revolutionary, and it's certainly worth a look at the many articles on the subject elsewhere in this blog collection if you'd like to explore that vein further.

The above probably gave away the reality that, as it happens, bullet journalling didn't prove the right approach for me - not because there's anything wrong with it, but simply because I write a diary for different reasons. Life goes by in a blur if you let it, and it's too easy to lose the detail of the good times, or forget how hard you've had to work to get through the tough times. I keep a diary going, and have done for a good couple of decades now, because doing so is really rather therapeutic.

The content is actually of rather secondary importance to me, because the act of writing is itself quite relaxing. In this screen-heavy, ultra-digitised age, the tactile experience of combining good paper, a proper nib and some carefully selected ink is a break from everyday chores itself. Many recent converts have noted that the hand/eye co-ordination required to shape letters properly makes the physical process of diary-writing an exercise in mindfulness before the sentences have even started to form.

Of course the words do start to matter soon enough, and this can probably fit well with another type of mindfulness technique - the very old but surprisingly uplifting approaching of 'counting your blessings'. Even on a long, difficult day there are moments to hold on to, and the fleeting pleasure of seeing a sunrise that wouldn't have been possible without that early start, or hearing a busker that would have remained inaudible without a trip to that dusty city, can quickly make for a memorable diary entry. It doesn't have to be masterful prose; just write down what made the day.

Frequency can be a worry, but it doesn't need to be. Again, set the rules in a way that works for you. Queen Victoria religiously wrote an entry every day, but she also had a large household staff to ensure that she never had to lift a finger to do much else, so that may not be a fair standard against which to measure your own progress. My own rule is that I have an entry for every day, but it doesn't necessarily have to be written on the day itself - because sometimes real life intervenes. Again, set the rules in a way that works for you.

Finally, it's probably worth adding that starting a diary is the perfect excuse to invest in some properly posh stationery so that it feels like a bit of a treat. Since I've been doing this since long before Nero's Notes was even a glint in Stu's eye, I have a heap of bulk-purchased Black'n'Red A5 notebooks which I shall probably carry on with for a while, but if I was starting now I'd probably opt for something groovier like the lovely Dingbats journals. The main diary stays at home to minimise the risk of losing the thing, but my jacket always makes room for a William Hannah cover which can accommodate anything in pocket (9x14cm) size, and when on expeditions my Start Bay cover can handle anything in A5, so I find plenty of opportunities to put cool new paper to use. I switch to a different pen and ink for each volume, too, but again that's just something which I find is fun for me. Give it a try and, seriously, let me know how you get on. A page a day keeps the doctor away...