Why keep a diary?

Sunday Observer – by Chamitha Kuruppu

My dear neighbour, who just got rid of a pile of unused diaries makes sure that everyone down our lane will get her a new diary for 2006. “It’s very useful, you know” she tells everyone. The lady is very specific about her requirements – she wants Mr. Perera to get her an executive diary and Mrs. Samaranayake is busy looking for an organiser while I have already given her a pocket diary.

“It’s just a diary, why do you dislike her so much,” asks my husband. The problem is why she needs so many. She says she gives them to the postman, taxi driver, paperman, etc. But the fact remains that over 25 unused diaries will be piled safely on her bookshelf throughout the year.

The situation becomes more pathetic when my own colleagues at work launch their diary hunt beginning January which continues till March or even April every year. Some will not be satisfied with a mere diary, they will stress on a calendar as well.

Every year I ask the same question. Is it because people are increasingly interested in recording their thoughts and feelings? A diary or a calendar is not something people will spend their money on. There is no doubt that this craze will be less if diaries are not given as compliments.

The word ‘diary’ comes from the Latin diarium (“daily allowance”, from dies,’day’ – more often in the plural form ‘diaria’). The word ‘journal’ comes from the same root (diurnus – of the day) through ‘journey’.

Call it a diary or a journal, writing becomes a way to look back at our personal progress. Isn’t it impossible to remember every little situation in our life accurately? Much cannot be remembered at all. For example people forget unpleasant things faster than good experiences.

A journal or diary can be a factual record or a free-flowing exploration of thoughts, feelings, ideas and reactions or a combination of both. Diaries or journals have played an important role in our understanding of history. From cave dwellers’ scratching in stone to the invention of parchment paper to the beginnings of formal education, the instinct to write, to document, to tell, has been strong.

It is no secret that some diarists think of their diaries as a special friend, even going so far as to name them. Little Anne Frank became world famous thanks to her diary. Anne called her diary “Kitty”.

The oldest extant diaries come from East Asian cultures, pillowbooks of Japanese court ladies and Asian travel journals being some of the oldest surviving specimens of this genre of writing.

In the 1980s and 1990s diaries became fertile ground for therapy. Many books have been published about how to write a diary (for increasing ‘self-awareness,’ for ‘finding your true self,’ and for healing from any number of personal troubles, including physical illness and trauma).

An entire culture has evolved around the practice of journaling. However, as internet access became commonly available, people naturally adopted it as yet another medium with which to chronicle their lives, with the added dimension of having an audience.

The number of people publishing web journals grew quickly, but for some time the practice was limited to people who had both internet access and a familiarity with HTML. However, several diverse communities of web diarists eventually developed.

According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia easy-to-use web-based services soon appeared to make online publishing easier. But the great explosion in personal storytelling came with the emergence of weblogs, also known as blogs.

There is no doubt that keeping journals for different facets of life helps – school, job, emotional, relationship, family, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. That way, it’s easy to see change and growth in specific aspects of your life.

It is suggested that journal or diary writing can relieve stress.

It’s a way to think through and clarify thinking, serving as a confidant or a sounding board.

Diary writing can also vent emotion – dissipate anger.

So.. let’s hope that all those diary hunters out there would at least make use of them this year-at least for their own benefit.

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