January 1st is a great day to begin writing a diary. Not a public online blog, but a private paper diary. Maybe a diary you got for Christmas, or maybe one you bought for half price in the sales. Maybe as a secret place to write down your deepest thoughts and innermost musings, or maybe just somewhere to list what you do each day. It's good to have a record of your life, something to look back on in the future and go "oh blimey, that day, yes, I remember that!" But keeping a diary is harder than it looks. It's easy to start off with good intentions for the first week or so, then get a bit bored, start missing out the odd day, and give up before February starts. You've probably tried, and failed, at least once.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977. It was a Puffin Club diary I'd got for Christmas, only three inches by four, with a red cover and a tiny biro stuffed down the spine. I duly filled in the Personal Particulars at the front and started to chronicle my life. I wrote in code so that nobody else in my family would be able to read what I'd written (well not easily anyway, I hope). There were only ten short lines to fill each day so all I could record were a few brief edited highlights. Many of my early diary entries are now too abbreviated or too cryptic for me to unravel. But it's fascinating to look back to my first year at secondary school, to remember what my life used to be like and to watch myself developing.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and I carried on. The diary survived into February 1977 without me slipping up, I logged religiously through the summer and my next Puffin diary arrived the following Christmas. I moved up to a small Letts in 1980, then a bigger volume in 1981 so I could actually write long sentences rather than brief summaries. It still wasn't especially spacious, so most of my university days aren't recorded in quite as much detail as I might like. I upsized again in 1986, reaching a point where I probably spent far too long writing about unnecessary minutiae just to fill the space. It's odd how you really only have time to write a regular diary when your life isn't quite full enough to be worth regularly writing about.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and I never stopped. I still write my diary every night before I go to bed (except if I'm knackered or busy in which case I write it up the following day). I've never missed a day out either. There's not one gap, not one day's memories blanked, not one evening where I thought "Ah stuff it, I can't be bothered to write about today." Which is bloody impressive actually. Being single has helped me to maintain the habit, because there's nothing more likely to dampen bedtime passion than "hang on darling, I'm just writing down all my innermost thoughts in my secret diary". Being healthy has helped too, because just one long spell in hospital could have created an unwelcome unrecorded hiatus. But what's really helped is being the sort of person who can stick to self-imposed targets and deadlines, even when there's not very much of interest to write about.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and it's now 40 years since I wrote my very first entry. It was a Saturday and, being a right little cherub at the time, I was off to sing Evensong in St Alban's Abbey. Aww, sweet. On the drive home my choirmaster took a wrong turning after filling up the car with petrol, and promptly drove us the wrong way down a dual carriageway - not far, but far enough to get seriously honked. My Mum was mortified when I innocently told her about the incident later. That evening I went to a New Year party, the sort of exciting 'do' that 11 year olds went to in 1977, and got given a pair of blue and red Tempo fibre tip pens as a belated Christmas present. And I remember all this only because I wrote it down at the time.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and I'm still going four decades later. I've just finished writing up my account of New Year's Eve 2016, which completes my 40th volume. That's 40 diaries, 40 years, 14610 days, no gaps. I can look back at any day in the last 40 years and see what I was doing, what I was thinking, and probably what I had for lunch. It's more factual than emotional, more descriptive than confessional, but that's just a reflection of my personality. And it's all for personal consumption only. I have no eye on publication or posterity, so there are a few frank and honest chunks I hope nobody else ever reads.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and started blogging on September 8th 2002. And I have to say, the former has been excellent practice for the latter. Sure, a blog presents a different, less personal, more guarded face to the world. But my diary means I've maintained the art of regular verbal composition over my entire adult life, which I bet you haven't. The self control to force oneself to write something every day is exactly the kind of pressure that daily blogging requires. I have creative discipline, and I prove it daily, once in private for me and once in public for you.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and I'm dead proud that I never stopped. I've written roughly six million words so far, which is eight times as long as the Bible. It's taken me approximately seven months to write too, which is a bit scary. If my flat was on fire and I could only rescue one thing, it would be my diary. That's my life in there, every success and failure, every friendship and encounter, every event and non-event. My diary represents a long-term investment in my past, and I plan to safeguard it into the future.
I started writing a diary on January 1st 1977, and I have every intention of continuing. Forty years of diary-writing may be a bloody long time, but according to the Guinness Book of Records it's not yet anything exceptional. Colonel Ernest Loftus (of Harare, Zimbabwe) began his daily diary at the age of 12 in 1896 and was still going strong when he died at the age of 103, some 91 years later. I'll never beat that. No doubt one day there'll come a time when I'm forced to pause, or when I physically can't write any more. But until then, I'll carry on. Volume 41 starts later tonight, chronicling my New Year's Day 2017 for posterity. I'm not sure there'll be tons to write about, but I'm sure I'll find the time to fit it all in.