Perfect timing to start a diary

People like to say that the perfect time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. I recently attended a meeting that wasn’t even about journal-keeping, but when we went around the room to describe what we’ve done lately and I mentioned the dilemma of 127 diaries, several people said they’d love to go back and read their own diaries from ten or twenty years ago–if only they had kept one.

The tree proverb goes on to add, “–and the second-best time is right now.” Fortunately, the first page of a diary always represents a new beginning, no matter what date appears at the top of the page. Almost any day offers some logic for beginning–the first day of the month, the beginning of summer, the arrival of a guest, your first night in a new home, the day of returning from a trip, your birthday, an anniversary of significance: Something in your life is always starting anew. Certainly there’s no need to hold off until January 1 to start one’s first diary or to revive the practice after letting it lapse a while.

Remember, too, that a diary doesn’t need to focus only in the present moment. Even if an entry opens by settling itself in the here and now, your writing may proceed through a doorway into memory or pause at the threshold of an anticipated future. The end of a chapter in your life also signals the beginning of the next, so it makes sense to start your journal in the wake of an event that feels like an ending, and learn in the upcoming pages what life has next in store.

Some diaries deliberately frame their focus around a marked-off period of time. A student begins a diary-blog to share with family at home the experience of studying abroad. New parents keep a detailed scrapbook of their baby’s first year. An annual garden notebook captures each detail from initial sowing to the year’s final harvest.

Some ideas for the perfect day to start (or reactivate) your journal:

  • Day of filing paperwork to launch a business, apply for citizenship, or lease an apartment
  • Day of achieving a big, long-term goal
  • Start of an exercise regime, with plan to track progress
  • First sight of seedlings coming up in your garden
  • Occurrence in current events that feels like “the end of an era”
  • Day of receiving important news
  • Day of purchasing tickets for an upcoming trip
  • Day of starting a new job or a new big project
  • Day of packing your suitcase for a trip (or the move to a new home)
  • Day of making an important life decision
  • Anniversary of an important event
  • Arrival or departure of a member of the household/family
  • First day of a new school year
  • Full moon
  • New moon
  • Vernal equinox (beginning of spring)
  • Summer solstice (beginning of summer)
  • Autumnal equinox (beginning of fall)
  • Winter solstice (beginning of winter)
  • Your birthday
  • New Year’s Day – January 1

What do you see on the horizon to guide the shape and direction of your next diary? Will you write each day, or check in with your journal only occasionally? A fresh start can feel good; the act itself of beginning a diary can mark the first step in a journey. Even if no big change looms in your life and everything feels fairly routine, it’s possible that your journal work will uncover a fuller way to see and experience what may only seem like ordinary events.

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