In October 1995, I started keeping a reader's journal. Each book I read, I'd fill in the title, author, date I finished the book, and write a brief review of what I thought. This wasn't intended to be particularly personal, I more just wanted to keep a record of what I was reading. I kept up the practice until the end of 2008. What stopped me? Technology. I had discovered Good Reads, which I enjoyed using as a way to keep a handy list of books I wanted to read. I also enjoyed seeing what my friends were reading and found it a handy way to search for things.
Recently, I thought that I should add to my Good Reads the books that were in my journals. I dug them out of the basement and started entering them. My idea was to type in exactly what I had written, but in the end I just gave it a star rating based on my thoughts. I just didn't feel comfortable posting online for anyone to read, something I had written 10 years earlier in a private place. What was executed as just a record keeping exercise ended up being more personal. I opened up one journal and saw on the first page that I had written my name and address. Immediately, a rush of memory of that apartment. Then the journal itself, a little book I had picked up in a museum shop in Istanbul.
This got me thinking about technology, social networking, journal keeping and privacy. At craft shows, a lot of people tell me "Oh, I have a blog now, I don't keep a journal." "I email on trips, that's like keeping a journal." Has social media replaced journal keeping? Have people lost a place where they can be totally private? Or has their sense of privacy disappeared and people are willing to share everything? I know I definitely censor myself when blogging or tweeting. I also noticed that my Good Reads reviews had become stale compared to what I had written in my books. I no longer am writing details like: Who loaned/recommended the book? What inspired me to read it? Did I cry at the end? Did I read it on a plane at the beginning of a trip? Did I think it was boring?
Flipping through these journals brings back a lot more memories than scrolling through a list on my laptop. I can picture the apartment I lived in, how hot that summer was, or the crazy blizzard we had. In trying to be more efficient, I lost that tangible side of the experience. It's not just about record keeping so I can sort, find, recommend; it also (unintentionally) is a record of what was happening in my life at that time, who I was hanging out with, where I was living.
So, yesterday I decided to continue in a real book, my record of books read. While I think I'll still use Good Reads because there are some aspects of it I enjoy, it's definitely not a replacement for my tangible journals.
I guess today's post is about keeping some kind of record keeping journal, something that's just for you. One that doesn't involve a whole lot of time or effort or purging of emotion, just a little more than a list. Maybe it's new recipes you've tried, movies you've seen, museum exhibits you've visited, it doesn't matter what. These journals will be a surprising peek into your everyday life, and will tell you a lot. While I do love my laptop, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all these things that connect me to people I would never know otherwise, I do think it's important to have some private space in your life, some thoughts that are just for you.