I have kept a hand written journal since I was a kid. The old lady we went to
the theater with told me to keep a journal. Her advice stuck with me.
That moment, in Aunt Kay's hallway, was a life changing experience for me.
Today was another milestone in journalling for me. Today, I carefully re-read
the last several volumes of my handwritten journal looking for underlined
passage which represent subject headings. These underlined key words serve to
provide a series of "hyper links" within the hand written journal. They make a
paper book about as useful as an online tool. This is the solution that I've
adopted to the computer geek's dilemma:
Should I keep a blog or a hand written journal?
My answer is: Keep a hand written journal with a thorough index. You can
consult your notes using the index, and this will allow you to "grep dead
trees". Most journal entries that I write are personal, semi-private, matters.
Writing with a pen on paper allows me to "keep part of my life offline".
Hand writing notes allows a flexibility of description and illustration that I
find impossible to get with a computer. It is too difficult, for me at least,
to make drawings or type math quickly on computers. The interface of the
computer gets in the way. To put it plainly -- writing on paper is relaxing
compared to writing on a computer.
Computers were made for tabulating indices.
Paper, pen, and notebook work well together.
Pen, paper, notebook, and computer generated index work perfectly together.
Today, I hunted down the underlined subject keywords and carefully stowed
them away in plain text files. Once everything was typed in, I had the
following epic computing experience:
$ ## look around and see the directory tree
date date.all days.all JournalIndex.pl subject subject.all
$ ## really look deep in to the directories
$ ls -R
date date.all days.all JournalIndex.pl subject subject.all
date.0 date.2 date.4 date.6 date.8 days.0 days.2 days.4 days.6 days.8
date.1 date.3 date.5 date.7 date.9 days.1 days.3 days.5 days.7 days.9
subject.0 subject.2 subject.4 subject.6 subject.8
subject.1 subject.3 subject.5 subject.7 subject.9
$ ## examine the structure of the date file for Volume 2
$ head ./date/date.2
$ ## display the number of dates plus links in each volume
$ wc -l ./date/date.*
$ ## index volume 7
$ ./JournalIndex.pl ./date/date.7 > ./subject/subject.7
$ ## index all volumes (date listing to subject listing)
$ cat ./date/date.* > ./date.all
$ ./JournalIndex.pl ./date.all > ./subject.all
Indexing all volumes.
total days plus subjects
$ ## total number of days plus subjects
$ wc -l ./date.all
$ ## total number of subjects
$ wc -l ./subject.all
$ ## extract the days from days plus subjects from volume 9
$ cat date.9 | grep ^20* > days.9
$ ## how many days have entries?
$ wc -l days.all
The first eleven volumes (Vol. 0 to 10) contain the period from 2013-10-24 to
2016-08-21. That is, 1033 days, or about two years and nine months. The numbers
show, on average, I wrote on 46%=481/1033 of all days.
"When I was a kid ..."
This current software setup is a long way from the early journals that I wrote
in highschool. Roy MacDonald really helped me get started in journaling. He raised, with his own life, journaling to the level of a vocation. He was called
to journal. Allow me to show you a broadsheet poster that Roy wrote:
Journals Are ...
... an important way of confronting the confusions of our world and the complexities of life. They are an assertion of our personal worth and individuality.
... open and available to everyone who can write a few words on paper and to everyone who wishes to consider this experience of living.
... often written in the heat of the moment, at the scene, and without reflection. They are the record of immediate experience and original feeling.
... natural resources which writers may store away for future use in prose or poetry.
... recordings of developing concepts, attitudes, ideas. They help to review our own progressions, changes, and patterns of behaviour.
... a source of stimulation for writers and are helpful in overcoming writing blocks. Often the basic recording of specific time and place details can generate other thoughts and recollections which encourage writing.
... useful in reviewing and reinforcing things we have learned and wish to remember.
... helpful in keeping us in touch with out ancesotrs and in projecting something of ourselves onward to future generations.
... miscellanies of things we find meaningful: a series of lines, verses, and quotations encoutered in our daily life.
... private worlds and secret places of our own where are free to be exactly who we are and to say exactly what we want to say.
Roy N. MacDonald, 1981
To Parker, in friendship Roy, London Oct 28, 2010
I wish you good writing and a wonderful life.
I agree with everything Roy wrote, and more.
He was the model journaller for me.
I think that the importance of a private journal for research was first taught to me by Roy.
On the other hand, Derek Krickhan models perfectly the private computer journaller.
He has a 'fancy typewriter' that we writes all his entries in to it.
I warn him, every chance I get, to back them up.
No one knows if they ever come out of the fancy typewriter.
Heru Sharpe got me started on rather "experimental" journalling. He is a
hardcore Kabbalist, and takes notes about all sorts of things. I'm sure that
there is a lot of fascinating poetry, reflection, and alchemy in his journal.
He got me writing about my own "investigations".
My interests in recreational reading, computer programming, naturalism, indoor
gardening, astronomy, foreign languages, and low complexity art all show up
under various guises in my journal. There are a lot of low level tricks built
in to how I mark my entries. By selecting subject keyphrases carefully, one
can emulate tags, categories, timing. Using a pen one can handle multiple
written languages, various fonts, math, figures, etc. You can glue in
interesting bits of paper.
The sky is the limit with hand written, well structured, notebooks.