When I was a kid, I was entranced by the idea of a diary. It felt like something that creative yet organized people do. I imagined that I would record the details of my daily life and someday, maybe years after my death, someone would find it and think, “Wow. I am so lucky that Lisa P. kept a diary. She’s fascinating!” There was only one problem: My diaries were not fascinating. The chronicles of what I did all day read like a list of errands. They were dead boring to write, and even worse to read.
Later, in my 20’s, I stumbled across The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. In it, she suggests writing “Morning Pages” to improve creativity. These pages are not meant to be real writing. They are more like a way to drain your brain of the mundane. (Let us now pause to observe the poetry of that line.) They are a warm up to get you ready to work. I faithfully wrote my pages every day for years—complaints, whines, fears, and even statements that I could not think of anything to say. The challenge I faced was that although I knew the pages were not real writing, they felt like real writing. They felt like real, bad writing. They did not prepare me to write better. They made me feel tired and discouraged. I have no doubt that they are enormously helpful for some. Not for me, though.
Eventually, I started a blog. My first blog, on Amazon.com, was simply funny observations and anecdotes—much like a little diary. But I never felt much purpose in that kind of writing, and it was too public. People were voting on whether or not they liked my posts, and some of them were voting against it! Can you imagine getting a bad review on your diary? I stopped blogging and mulled over the point of it all.
When I began again, it was in a group led by musician/ blogger/ author/ workshop leader/ close friend Nerissa Nields. She encouraged us to think about the purpose of our blog, and our audience. I decided to focus my writing on things that I really care about: reading, writing, and the writing life. Now, everything I write circles back to that. Who cares if there are five zillion other blogs about the same topic? That just means that people are interested.
These days, when I write a blog entry, I don’t think about “my day” per se. I thik about what is in my mind. I think about what is in my heart. Usually, something has been rattling around, waiting for expression on the page. I keep a running list of thoughts and ideas to explore in the back of my notebook. That way, I never get stuck facing a blank page.
So here are my three tips for keeping a diary or blog:
- Write about an idea or thought. The stories to support the idea will come.
- Keep a running list of your ideas, so you don’t forget them.
- Don’t let people vote on your blog posts. I moderate comments. Rude people and spammers are welcome to go start their own blogs. But rude people don’t seem to be interested in my blog.
For the first time in my life, I now have a “diary”—this blog. And I do think it has been useful to me, mostly because it connects me to people. Which is something that my diary never did.
If you are interested in starting a blog, Copyblogger has many helpful articles.