Saturday, March 13, 2010

writing things down

Every year I wonder what it might be like to keep better records, everything from notes on wine tasting to how many applications I can get out of a tube of mascara. Well, maybe not the latter, but I am intrigued by the idea of notes, journals, diaries, and records. Much of that kind of thing would be nonsense and a waste of time, of course, but there does seem to be some potential value and satisfaction in making notes about some things. Titles of books and films, for instance.

In looking over what records I have managed to keep, it's interesting to observe just what is of interest years later. Often, it's not what I would have imagined. When I look through school reports, diaries, and ephemera, even photographs, I'm often drawn to what isn't there.

Writing about how upset I was with a fellow high school classmate has some interest decades later, and writing about it at the time probably had some therapeutic value, but I find myself curious about other matters. What did I keep in my nightstand? Who waited on me at the grocery store? What cars did my neighbors drive, and what did my parents talk to each other about during dinner?

My mother-in-law keeps a diary, or more precisely, a daily log. She approaches it in a rote, businesslike manner, like a kind of accounting. If you go to her records, you can find out if it was raining 17 years ago, or what movie they watched after supper. She has no interest in using her diary as a place to vent.

If I could somehow magically go back and create a record of anything, of real interest would be a record of all the film and video projects I've worked on beginning around 1987 and continuing to the present. How hard would it have been to make a quick note somewhere with the name of the client and the location, every time I worked on a job? But I didn't. Partly, this is because I didn't have the vision to see it would someday mean something to me. But it would also have meant creating some kind of easy and compelling record-keeping infrastructure. My mother-in-law has the time and patience to sit each night, pen in hand, and write everything down. She buys a new, blank diary every year. Call me spoiled, but I'm afraid it would take more than that simple media platform for me to go her kind of distance.

Upon reflection, the issue isn't time, and it isn't even necessarily committment as such. They say the best exercise is the one you'll do regularly, and so it is with journalling: the best record-keeping is the one you find easiest and most intuitive, the one that snaps comfortably into place and becomes a smooth, ongoing part of life. Home computers, an array of software, various PDAs, and social media such as this blog you are reading have become incredibly sophisticated. There should be a way for any motivated person to figure out a set of ongoing journalling goals, and stay on top of them, with ease and style.

more to come

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