Against the Tide of Forgetting

I read the above quote in a book written by a guy travelling in South America (which I gave to a friend so I can’t look up the source). In the book, the guy used it to explain his obsessive diary-keeping. It struck a chord with me. I kept a hardback journal when I was a teenager but in my late teens lost the habit. I’ve attempted to start one again from time to time, but stopped either because I was appalled at my own whininess, or I was simply too tired at the end of the day to remember to write in it. It’s only when I travel that the enthusiasm for recording the day returns, enhanced by the fun of sketching.

For over a decade I had a scheduling diary for business use. It’s proven invaluable over the years as a store of information on when and where or how long I did things for. I also started a writing diary on my computer way back in the 90s, in which I get whatever is crowding my mind out before concentrating on the story, or brainstorm ideas. And then there’s online journalling. I had a LiveJournal back in the day, then started this blog.

If anybody ever decided to compile a biography, they’d probably curse me. So. Many. Sources.

But maybe a biographer would be pleased there are sources at all. Still, I think it’s more likely they’ll be someone needing to speak at my funeral and will have a lot of blather to trawl through to get to appropriate information. Lots of irrelevant detail, like craft projects and taking the cat to the vet.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to narrate my everyday life, but every time I go back to my old scheduling diaries I wish I hadn’t stopped using them. I can’t rely on my memory to work out when I last had a mammogram or visited an interstate friend, for instance, but that would have been noted if I’d kept using diaries. The phone’s calendar app is useful because it has an alert to remind me of appointments, but otherwise it’s not that great. It once deleted all my old entries, and the month view shows only one dot/event per day.

Way back when I first bought a smartphone, the realisation that it could lighten my handbag considerably – replacing the camera, diary, notebook, book, torch and more – delighted me. But I’m finding myself missing the reliability (not to mention the privacy) of the physical versions. Like with travel documents, the safest approach is to keep a copy in both realms, so we’ve never abandoned using a wall calendar.

I’ve bought a little scheduling diary for next year. It cost me $1.50. I’m thinking of getting a little notebook, too. I don’t know if it’s disillusionment with flawed digital formats, or I have nostalgia for the old way of doing things, but lately I’m missing the reliability of pen and paper. Or maybe I’m starting to fear the tide of forgetting.

3 thoughts on “Against the Tide of Forgetting

  1. I have always been a poor diarist, until I stated a blog. It is invaluable. I often pop back and see what I was doing a year, or ten, ago. I like a physical diary, around which I hang my life. If I lose it, I have no idea what I am doing. Also, because I am poorly, I try not to do more than one important thing a day. Oh no, I can’t imagine ever running out everything in my diary, but a smart phone doing that to you is awful. Happy paper and pen new year!!

    • Yes, I like reading my old blog posts too! There have been times I’ve contemplated whether to close down this blog, but each time I concluded that if I consider myself the audience, and any interaction with the outside world a bonus, then the enjoyment I get makes it worth keeping. If WordPress changed so that it became ad-riddled like everything else, I’d look for a way to continue it off the internet.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. I’ve never been a diary-keeper, just can’t see the point. For several decades I’ve kept a very brief record of books read, and for the last few years I’ve also kept notes (in a separate booklet) on embroidery projects, but that’s it. Oh, and for a while I was recording daily max temperatures and monthly rainfall, but I stopped doing that because it’s all online anyway. I don’t record any other personal stuff. Appointments go on a calender, which gets thrown out at the end of the year. Medical test results go in a drawer so I can compare year-to-year results. Tax things – you have to keep those. As for what anyone might say at my funeral – well, I won’t have to hear it!

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