I may not have ever kept a diary or a journal, but I have kept planners. Helen Phillips said on September first:
My strangest habit is the neurotically detailed daily planner that I keep (paper, not digital). I’ve been keeping these planners since I was in about third grade. For many years, I would erase each task as I completed it, which provided me with a sense of tranquility; by the end of the year, the planner would be blank again. But the week I turned twenty-five, I realized that it was such a loss to erase my days, and I switched to crossing out instead. So now I know exactly what I did every day of every year for the past nine years. I keep track of what I’m writing and what I’m reading, people I saw and events I attended, milestones in my kids’ lives (first tooth! first joke!). This is my little bulwark against the passage of time and the unreliability of memory.
When I was young and had trouble going to sleep at night, my mother suggested I keep paper and pencil by my bed and write down the things I was thinking about. This habit saved me many a sleepless night. Get it out of my head and on paper (or in my computer), and then I can forget about it. I live by this.
So when I became aware of planners, I latched on. Starting with Day Timers and two-pages-to-a-day (lists and such on one page and hours on the other). Each month came in a separate spiral notebook. I saved two of these: July and August 1976, when I was living in Quebec City for the summer. At some point I switched to a-page-a-day, which came two months to a spiral notebook. I saved two of these–Sept/Oct 1979 and Mar/Apr 1980, the year I was living in France.
Since 1982, when I was 25, I have saved every year.
- In 1982, my second year of law school, I switched to a desk calendar.
- 1983 and 84 were back to pocket calendars–a week a page.
- In 1985, I had a desk and a pocket calendar.
- 1986–desk calendar.
- 1987–1998–switched to Filofax pocket-sized notebooks. I LOVED these. Beautiful leather notebooks, mini dividers, all sorts of forms–one even to keep track of books read and another for menstrual cycles.
In 1999 I went digital, but that year has disappeared. Even after that, though, for the crazy summers with four kids, I would print out monthly calendars and color code the children and their activities–it kept me sane, and feeling as if I had some control over the situation.
This year with my one-true-thing practice, I’ve looked back at the paper planners a few times to make sure I was getting my stories as straight as possible. I love what Helen said about keeping a planner: “This is my little bulwark against the passage of time and the unreliability of memory.”