Archive for April, 2010

Green With Envy

April 30, 2010

                                                 GREEN WITH ENVY

The local paper was not interested in printing my article on building a National Diary Archive in this city.   However, they have run feature stories about the still wildly popular hobby and lucrative business of scrapbooking.   

Counter-intuitively, a local store that sells blank books for journal writing would not hang a flyer about my journal workshop.  I have canceled journal workshops for lack of interest.  I have felt the breeze of doors slamming in my face regarding the idea of creating a National Diary Archive to preserve the thoughts and feelings and stories of the common person. 

Meanwhile, on April 14, Doug Gross of CNN wrote: “Twitter and the Library of Congress announced Wednesday that every public tweet posted since Twitter started in 2006 will be archived digitally by the federal library.”  Matt Raymond, the Library of Congress communications director, is seemingly ecstatic by what might be learned through this “wealth of data.”  And Twitter itself gushes: “It’s very exciting that tweets are becoming a part of history.” 

Jealousy washes over me.  Save imbecilic tweets and not the mindful outpourings of self-discovery, not the handwritten records of personal history, work, travels or relationships?   I wonder what wealth of information could be gleaned by saving all of our phone calls.  

How about if we save our “to do” lists?  Ah well, someone has already done that in the journaling world.  She collected her lists.  I suppose there was a revelation there, if nothing else it would have been that we spend a lot of time on things that are, in the end, not very important after all.   Given one hundred years our lists might be a fascinating thing…if you needed background for a novel. 

So, if tweets are valuable as part of the history of social culture, why not journals?  Or is it a matter of the ease with which tweets have been collected as opposed to the money and tenacious work of collecting handwritten journals?

What’s In a Name?

April 30, 2010

What to call the new baby?

National Diary Archive, American Diary Archive, National Diary Repository, American Diary Repository, Diary Archive of America, National Diary Library, American Diary Library, etc. , etc., etc.   A veritable mad confusion of choices.

“Journal, ” a term I prefer, is too often confused with newspapers and magazines  (i.e. American Journal Archive). 

I like to tell people I keep a “journal”  and not a “diary” as I think “journal” conveys something more serious, something with depth and reflection beyond  a smattering of daily notes.   Truthfully, not all my entries have that much depth. 

I’ll be blunt about using the word “repository” in the name.  It reminds me of “suppository,” an altogether repugnant association in my mind.

Someone suggested going with “American” instead of “National,”  to distinguish it from all the other diary archives in the world.  Does anyone actually know of any other official diary archives? 

Any name suggestions are welcome.  Voting is encouraged.  Please don’t do the American thing…you know, what we are doing with baby names…Amairikan Dieree Arkive.

How Did I Get Into This?

April 30, 2010

                                         HOW DID I GET INTO THIS?

I think it all started when I began to consider the inevitability of my mortality…as in Death, it’s coming.  I marched out and made a proper “living will” for medical directives.   However, my primary will still consists of a few sentences of my final wishes scribbled out preceding each annual trek to Florida via air travel.  Not good enough.  The focus of my concern has always been “What will happen to all my journals…who will get them…will they fall into the wrong hands?”   And whose hands ARE the wrong hands? 

Anais Nin had the volumes of her diary stored during her lifetime in a safe deposit box.  If you hide them then who will get the key, and when?  Do you want your family to read your diary?  Your sibling rivals?  Your best friend?  Your grandchildren?  Strangers?  Who?

So, clearly, this is a question that needs to be addressed by everyone who keeps a diary. 

I had been ruminating on the idea for some time when I read A Diary of the Century, a published selection from the 70 year diary of Edward Robb Ellis.  This is one of the best I have read.  I was mesmerized.    After years of the discipline and meditation of keeping a diary the writer is led to profound insights.   He is highly quotable.  If you haven’t read this book, do so.  Ellis was a newspaper reporter and author of several books.  He lived most of his life in New York City.

In his final chapter Ellis advocates establishing an American Diary Repository for the preservation and use of the diaries written by the common citizen.  Ellis calls it “an untapped body of Americana—the life stories of all sorts of men and women as told in their journals.”  The idea set forth – which I shared – absolutely set me on fire.  I wanted to meet this Edward Robb Ellis immediately, but discovered I was a few years too late.

Nine years followed where I struggled to hold journal workshops.  In spite of decent advertising there has been limited interest. (I may be an unknown, but after 46 years of writing I do know something about diaries.)   This lack of response led me to shelve the idea of the diary archive. 

Then I came across a reference to  “The Power of Writing Journal Conference” held in 2008 in Denver.   Featured speakers were Tristine Rainer and Christina Baldwin, my favorite authors on journal writing.  Impossible to believe, I missed this conference.  Ms. Rainer  also hopes to see a world-wide library of diaries.  Through her Center for Autobiographic Studies she has encouraged me to take up the challenge.


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