Diaries to Read, Part 1 (Available Online)

It is useful at times to read published diaries and get a feel for why and how others have taken up the pen. Some have written with the expectation of readers, others not so much. The common denominator is that these are diaries which are in the public domain and available to read for free online. Enjoy.

Emilie Davis (1839-1889) – A civilian’s diary during the U.S. Civil War. Emilie Davis was free African American woman living in Philadelphia while writing in the diary. It was a pocket diary with a few blank lines for every day. Pennsylvania State University houses the digital scans.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) During the plague in London in 1665, the author who would later write Robinson Crusoe kept a diary of the horrors he witnessed, later publishing the sensational journal. A Journal of the Plague Year is available at Project Gutenberg as a transcription of the original journal.

Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) – A Swiss-Russian traveler who explored the Sahara was a prolific writer and diarist. Eberhardt at times disguised herself as a man to be able to travel with little incident. Her surviving diary entries were compiled and published in a book titled, Isabelle Eberhardt, ou, la Bonne nomade: d’après des documents inédits. The English title is The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt. This diary is available online at Project Gutenberg in French. For a translation, you will need to purchase the book wherever books are sold.

Matthew Henson (1866-1955) In the autobiography of Matthew Henson called A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, the author weaves his personal history with his diary entries from the last expedition of the Peary Arctic Club. They give context to who he is and what the group set out to explore. You can find it at Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)The diaries of Pepys are online as a personal project of a tech enthusiast in Herefordshire named Phil Gyford. They are a transcription of the diaries rather than a digital scan. Pepys was a young civil servant in London starting his diary in 1660 and stopping a decade later. You will find ruminations of his daily schedule.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) Digital scans of diaries from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s collection are available at the Roosevelt Center. You can see his diary from the age of 9, his teen years, his diaries during law school, and as a member of the New York State Assembly, as president, training for war, travel diaries, etc.

Robert Scott (1868-1912) – Captain Robert Scott let British Antarctic expeditions -the Discovery (1901–1904) and Terra Nova (1910–1913). The Terra Nova Antarctic Diaries are available at the British Library to read online. The diaries, “document all aspects of the expedition, including: · the voyage · establishment of the winter base · scientific work · sledging expeditions,” according to the British Library. Interestingly, Scott “wrote most of his entries sequentially on one side of the page, leaving the other side blank,” says the British Library. “In some instances he later used the blank pages to write further entries, reversing the diary and writing from the back of the volume forwards. These entries appear upside down in the original volumes,” they continue. The website allows you to rotate the diary so that one does not need to read it upside down; they also have a transcription in san serif typeface for easier reading.

Peace,

Deborah

Harvesting from Your Journals

If you write for the public, if you are a novelist, screenwriter, blogger, etc., your journals might be a source of inspiration. You might be able to harvest from them.

Let’s say you are a Young Adult novelist. Could your diaries from the age range of your reader help to get you into the mindset of your characters? Could some of the problems of youth become the main conflict for your protagonist? Would reading your older diaries at least get you in the mood for writing for this age range?

How can your private journals help you to write for the public?

Peace,

Deborah

Dispose of Your Diary In a Useful Way: The Great Diary Project

  • Are you afraid that someone living today might read your diary after you have gone?
  • Would you like your diary preserved for posterity 75 years from now?
  • Do you want to dispose of your journals now, but cannot think of a good way to do it?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then consider giving your journals to the The Great Diary Project.

Based in the United Kingdom and borne out of an impulse to preserve the everyday ideas of ordinary life, The Great Diary Project was founded in 2007 by Dr. Polly North, who is the founding director of the project at BishopsGate Institute, and by Dr. Irving Finkel, who is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures of the British Museum.

Dr. Finkel found random diaries that were to be tossed away and purchased them. In his work with scribblings from ordinary life in the ancient world, such as a cuneiform of a receipt for livestock, Dr. Finkel found a window, a glimpse into what life was like beyond the statues and monuments to world leaders.

The founders of The Great Diary Project take that same approach to today’s diaries – they find value in the ordinary. As time moves on, what seems so mundane to us will be odd to posterity, or at least different enough to be of great value to historians. The project accepts diaries from anywhere and loosely define the concept. They preserve them and make them available to the public.

For those worried about people today reading your diary, don’t worry. When you deposit your diary with The Great Diary Project, you can determine when your diary can be made available to the public. You can tell them that this book is not available to the public until a century from now. By then, every person that you are worried will see it will likely not know what you’ve done with the thing or will have long since passed on from the planet.

Check out The Great Diary Project.

Peace,

Deborah

Not Journaling Enough? Your Tools Might Be the Problem

Have you procrastinated in your journaling? Do not feel guilty. Procrastination in journal writing sometimes occurs when your tools do not interest you.

If you are subconsciously irritated by the thin onion skin paper that allows ink to bleed though, one might not wish to write on the page again. If the ink pen you are using is too small for your hands it can be uncomfortable to use, making one less likely to pick it up. Perhaps you journal while outside of your home, but a physical journal is not something you enjoy carrying around.

Perhaps a thicker paper is needed. Perhaps a larger ink pen will help you return to the journal. Perhaps a digital journal is better for on the go writing than a physical one.

Patience is the key here. Sometimes you just need to reassess your objects. Do you find them useful? If not, it might be time to move away from them. While you are at it, enjoy the journey of finding the journal writing tool that is right for you.

Peace,

Deborah

Do You Reread Your Journals?

People write in journals for a variety of reasons. Depending on the purpose of the journal, rereading it can be useful. Sometimes, however, rereading the journal serves no purpose for you or perhaps it is too painful.

However, for those of us who use journals to record our history, our progress (or lack of it), rereading is essential.

I recently stumbled across Tim Ferriss’ book – Tools of Titans. In his introduction, I was struck by his use of journals. He calls them “notes.”

“I’m a compulsive note-taker…. I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so…. It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

“My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.

“For instance, let’s say I stumble upon a picture of myself from June 5, 2007, and I think, ‘I really wish I looked like that again.’ No problem. I’ll crack open a dusty volume from 2007, review the 8 weeks of training and food logs preceding June 5, repeat them and -voila- end up looking nearly the same as my younger self (minus the hair). It’s not always that easy, but it often is.”

For Ferriss, workout journals and food logs are important.

What would be important for you to recall from your journals?

For me, recalling what I was doing a year ago  helps me to understand my progress and my process in any given area of life. Have I made progress on the goals mentioned last year?

Approximately a year ago this month, I said that I wanted to create a business. I’ve set those gears in motion.

One of the things I now do that I wasn’t doing last year this time is use the journal to record my goals for the week, re-reading the goals daily, and revamping the next week’s goals on Saturday.

Members of BTS, a music group that I like, ask themselves at least three goal-related questions every year, questions that I have adapted to a weekly form and ask myself every Saturday in my journal. They are these:

  1. What accomplishments excited you this week?
  2. What would you like to accomplish next week?
  3. Give yourself encouragement for the next week.

I answer these questions. Under accomplishments for the week, I note daily which things I’ve done and which I have not. I reread the answers at the end of the week. Sometimes I look back on the week and see lots of notes that something did not happen, that I did not accomplish this thing or that. It can be discouraging. But the great difference between last year and this year is that I correct the failings quicker because I  reread the list of things to do every week.

My journal is also where I record my feelings or thoughts about family, business, technology or anything else I’m thinking about. Not only is my to-do list there, but the mental state that I’m in when I accomplish (or fail to accomplish) a thing is right there as well. This helps me to see patterns of thought that I can change to alter my behavior, map my behavior towards the goal.

The person that I once was is always a familiar stranger. This is comforting. Since I made such terrible career decisions in my youth, I am forever in doubt that I’ll know what future self wants. However, according to my journals, the terrible decisions occurred when I stopped listening to myself and followed the crowd. Now, I listen to myself more, I follow the way that I am bent more, even if my behavior is difficult to explain. (This is another reason that rereading my journals comes in handy – if I can explain myself to myself, I have a better shot at being able to explain myself to other people.)

Do you reread your journals? Why do you do so?

Peace,

Deborah

How to Journal: 7 Journal Writers Give Advice

Whether you have just begun journal writing, or have been doing it for years, or are taking it up again after a hiatus, these fellow journal writers are here to inspire you in the journey. I’ve compiled quotes and links to their full content. Enjoy!

Sincerely,

Deborah

1. Arnold Bennett, Author

“There is only one valid reason for beginning a diary—namely, that you find pleasure in beginning it; and only one valid reason for continuing a diary—namely, that you find pleasure in continuing it. You may find profit in doing so, but that is not the main point—though it is a point. You will most positively experience pleasure in reading it after a long interval; but that is not the main point either—though it is an important point. A diary should find its sufficient justification in the writing of it. If the act of writing is not its own reward, then let the diary remain for ever unwritten.”

2. Jade Herriman, Art Therapist

“Check out the journals of writers, artists and scientists for inspiration – in doing this you will see how many options are available for a journal, the format is not set and can reflect your interests and passions.”

3. Alexandra Johnson, Author

“As my shelves filled with separate notebooks -travel journals, commonplace books full of quotations, writer’ notebooks- so they filled with the work that had come out of them. Now, I never have to worry about getting started. In dry seasons, all I have to do is open an old journal. Inside, something waits… to spark a new project. I learned long ago not to care what the journals look like, or if they’re well written (they’re usually not). or how often I fill the pages.” – from the book Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal

4. Kristin at Journaling Saves

“Remember that journaling should be enjoyable (most of the time). If you take the task too seriously or put too much pressure on yourself, journaling will become a burden instead of a gift. Keep a spirit of play, and infuse your journal with a little humor. Adding art, creativity, color or heart to your journal keeps the process fresh and inviting. ”

5. Jen Morris at Jen Morris Creative

“[We] think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave [an art journal] open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. ”

6. Brett and Kay McKay Online Magazine Editors

“A journal is basically a chance for your past self to lend counsel to your present self.

[Simply] writing about your feelings and frustrations helps you focus on what’s really going on in your life and in your head, so that you can come up with a solution to your problems.”

7. Barbara Sher, Author

“Let’s end the notion that ideas have no value unless they turn into a business or have some other practical use. Save them all in a beautiful book like Leonardo did. You might want to give them away someday, perhaps to someone who needs an idea. Or your great-great-grandchildren might love knowing what a fascinating mind you had. Or your biographer might be very happy after you’re gone.”  – from the book Refuse to Choose

 

Roberto Blake on Being Prolific and Why Steve Jobs Should Have Been a Vlogger

One of my inspirations for publishing a blog post 6 days per week is Roberto Blake -a daily vlogger and graphic designer who discusses entrepreneurship regularly. His Medium post on Your First 1000 Pieces of Content (Read it by clicking here. ), discusses how to become an influencer through being prolific.  I have a long way to go before this website and its adjacent platforms has 1000 pieces of content. However, enjoying the journey is half the fun.

Also of interest is this video where Blake says he wishes Steve Jobs had been a daily vlogger. His argument is that we could then study his early moments closely as Jobs struggled to create Apple Computers and revolutionize accessible communication. The idea, I suppose, is to inspire the rest of us to tell our story , document our journey, because this information can be useful to other people.

You and I have talked about this recently, about how your stories can be a gift to the world (click here to read it). You don’t have to be the founder of a legendary company like Jobs, to be useful.

Blake goes on to say that quantity (being prolific) can produce quality eventually. Practice helps. I would add, that quantity can produce quality if you are paying attention to results and tweaking to make a better outcome as you go along.

What do you think about quantity producing quality eventually? And do you think Steve Jobs should have been a daily vlogger? That’s debatable. I think some of his legend is partly because he was enigmatic.

Sincerely,

Deborah

P.S. We’ve already discussed how Seth Godin – another person known for daily creations -creates his blog posts every day. Click here to read that explanation.

P.P.S. Out of all the people that I would have loved to have seen with a Youtube channel, it’s Orson Welles. He was always frustrated about the expense of films and the fact that you needed, as he said, an army of people to get the job done. The director of Citizen Kane could have elevated the craft of internet videos with his experience and imagination.

The Baby Steps for Your Goals are an Amuse-Bouche (And Other Thoughts about Goals)

Thoughts about goals. Let’s bullet point them for clarity.

  • Sometimes it takes a while to understand who you are and what you want because you are unique; there is no blueprint for you. If you do not happen to be that person who has known all of her life that she wanted to be an astronaut, then give yourself some slack. Nobody has ever lived YOU before.
  • Sometimes it takes a while to understand who you are and what you want because you have been told what you SHOULD want, where you SHOULD live, where you SHOULD send your children to school, what clothing you SHOULD wear, etc. Those are what I deem the “shackles of the shoulds.” Perhaps your brain has not yet been unchained from the shackles, and that’s why you aren’t living the life you want…yet.
  • Always throw a “yet” in there. It gives your brain an open door to possibilities. Watch Carol Dweck’s TEDx Talk on “The Power of Yet” by clicking here.
  • But the above is no excuse for not trying. They are just reasons that you might be stuck every now and then when pursuing a goal.
  • Make a plan for what you want and how you will achieve your goal. Perhaps you’ve always wanted a garden; perhaps you would like to give away millions of dollars in scholarships; perhaps you have health issues to conquer; perhaps you want to fly to Korea and finally meet your favorite pop star. Whatever it is. Make the plan; have daily steps -daily, I say- which map your behavior from where you are to where you want to be.
  • Your daily baby steps towards the goal might feel like annoyingly small steps. (That’s one of the “dirt sandwiches” of pursuing anything.) However, they provide a glimpse of what your life could be. Enjoy the glimpses; they are an amuse-bouche of what’s to come if you keep going.
  • Now, let’s say something happens, and the opportunity you wanted is no longer available. Figure out – and this all goes back to your plans in the first place- what drew you to make that plan. What is the essence of what you want? Is it possible to find that essence elsewhere?
  • The great thing about knowing what you want is that you are willing give it a go, even if you die still trying. You are going in the right direction, and that journey might have to suffice.

 

Some thoughts for the day.

Peace,

Deborah

The Bulwer-Lytton Writing Contest – Patterns of Success

originally published 3-18-2015 on Summer Haven Blog

Today, Summer Haven will help you win a fiction writing contest by showing you the patterns in the winning entries.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” starts Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton‘s novel Paul Clifford (1830). The first sentence of the novel has become infamous as one of the worst lead lines ever.

In 1983, Professor Scott Rice of San Jose University started a contest to commemorate Bulwer-Lytton’s most notorious achievement, asking participants for a bad opening sentence to a made-up novel. The very worst would win first prize. This contest continues today and has had winners from around the world. Check their website for contest rules.

Continue reading The Bulwer-Lytton Writing Contest – Patterns of Success