I also have a drawer that holds journals that were started for a particular reason and abandoned - perhaps kept on a short trip or as the beginnings of a commonplace book.
All this leads me to Thomas Mallon's A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries. I first read it soon after its publication date in 1983. It is a book that I have been wanting to reread and finally got around to doing just that last month.
I had been sporadically keeping a journal for years before I first read this book - I still have two of the little diaries with locks from high school - but Mr. Mallon introduced me to people who were like-minded in wanting to keep a record of their days.
Here were writers, artists, preachers, politicians, crooks and even an assassin who felt compelled to make note of their thoughts, dreams, desires, and events happening not only in their private lives but in the world around them.
So we have samples from the famous diaries of Samuel Pepys, Virginia Woolf, Degas, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Thoreau. There are also entries from a whole raft of everyday people. Mr. Mallon has gathered all these keepers of the word into sections: Chroniclers, Travelers, Pilgrims, Creators, Apologists, Confessors, and Prisoners.
This is not a series of entries one after the other. Mr. Mallon entertains the reader with his own witty and insightful comments and connections on the entries and their compilers. This book helped me to expand my own journals into more than just whining about whatever particular inconvenience life was handing out at the moment. I found reading this book to be a fascinating look into the minds and lives of so many. Fascinating, even more so now, rereading it some decades later and after many hundreds of journal entries of my own.
My own journal keeping has developed, or maybe I should say declined, in the past few years to more of a nightly list begun as a way to remind me that I actually do accomplish some things each day. But I was inspired by one of the diarists in Mallon's book, Toni Bentley, a corps member of the New York City Ballet who kept a journal for one Winter Season begun on November 21, 1980 and finished on February 15, 1981. She used it to assess her career in dance and her commitment to her art.
So I hunted up this attractive journal that I had tucked away for a special occasion...
Of a late afternoon, I sit at my desk overlooking my small front yard and ponder and muse and write about whatever strikes my fancy. It may be a page describing the items on my desk, two pages bemoaning my fate at the mechanical problems my Jeep is experiencing (and have thankfully been repaired), or it may just be a list of cities I still want to visit.
I might also include observations on the weather, the light, the leaves piling up, or the red cardinal at rest on the rim of the French blue birdbath.
I write with a comfortable Lamay fountain pen that I purchased on a trip to Savannah a couple of years ago. (Fountain pens are my one weakness!) The pages are smooth and lined and the book has a nice heft to it so I know I mean business. I bought this one and a red one like it ages ago. I only paid $7 for each one. Now I wish I had bought a few more.
I realize this post has turned out to be more about me than A Book of One's Own, but I highly recommend Mr. Mallon's look at diaries and the people who keep them. It just might inspire you to pick up a notebook and begin to write.