Looking back through an old diary the other day, I came face-to-face with my teenage self and discovered to my surprise how much my views of the world had changed. Although I have only kept a diary for parts of my life, not recorded every day, I now wished I had. What an illuminating experience meeting "me", aged 17, has been!
Keeping a diary that will be useful to you, requires sticking to a few rules though. Try these **tips for keeping a meaningful diary: **
1. Be Honest
Unlike essays or creative writing for fiction, a diary requires the writer to be brutally honest. The thing to remember is that most likely the only person who will ever get to read our daily entries are the writer themselves and perhaps one or two best friends or immediate family members. Having said that, writing a diary should still observe certain rules of style.
Unless the writer is totally honest with their diary entries, there is no point keeping a diary. Why embellish events or play down your role in a situation?
Unless you plan to publish your diary later in life, nobody's going to know that your trousers split or your mascara ran and you looked like a raccoon on your first date!
If you cannot confront what or who brought about a crisis, an argument or mishap, then you won't learn anything from experiences and repeat mistakes time and again. Days blur into each other when we don't record experiences.
A diary reminds us of times of contentment as well as unhappiness and of the things we could have handled differently or better. It is therapeutic to write things down, getting them out of your system as it were.
And this is why diary keeping can improve your life in ways you never imagined: you can look back and decide upon a course of action in the here and now, based on your past experience. If you lie to make yourself look better, you're only deceiving yourself.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Express Emotions
Don't record just the mundane, (got up, washed, had coffee...), it's our ideas and emotions that make diaries such riveting reads, if they are written well and honestly record the writer's state of mind.
Going back in time to see your reaction to world events - or on a smaller scale, events within your family or circle of friends - can be illuminating and reveal what stuff you're made of, to yourself and readers.
3. Be Concise and Proofread!
Adopting a concise style will help you keep your diary entries tidy and the text will be flowing well from a reader's point of view. On some quiet days you may want to record only bullet points - on others you may want to put into writing complex ideas or emotions that require a few pages.
Writing clearly what you mean will ensure you'll know what an entry was all about years later, when you leaf through pages again. Imagine an editor is going to read your diary entries one day - what would a professional editor leave and what would they cut out?
Proofread: correct spelling mistakes and word omissions! You may not be famous now, but who knows, one day you may be. Somebody may want to publish after you've gone.
Think how embarrassing it would be have your manuscript returned by the publisher, covered in an editor's red marks, circling all your typing and spelling errors!
4. Diary Writing Aids
These days you don't have to wait until you get home to write your diary. Diary writing can be done "on the move". Why not make a few notes during your day? There are even apps that will let you do that on your Smartphone these days, such as Day One for example.
Some free programs offered by providers like Google also allow you to share your diary entries with others, allowing you to get feedback until you're more sure of what you're doing.
Later Microsoft packages come with a program called Notes, which you could turn into a diary.
5. Getting Your Diary Ready for Publishing
You may decide to publish your diary on a daily basis to a select number of trusted friends or family members. Or you may want to publish in the traditional way, submitting your diary as a manuscript to a publisher. Either way, there are a few stylistic and practical rules to observe.
Margins at top and bottom, left and right, should be consistent and generously sized throughout. Use the "paragraph" styling feature Microsoft provides to achieve this as well as consistency of font size, indents and line spacing.
Line spacing should be at least 1.5 lines, with double that between paragraphs, if you wish to submit your diary as a manuscript to publishers.
Use the "indent" feature to indent the first line of every paragraph. Chose an acceptable font like Times Roman or Verdana or Courier and use headings 1, 2 or 3. The way you present your manuscript will tell the publisher a lot about how professional you are.
A well-presented diary manuscript they might persuade them to publish more of your work in future, providing you with a potentially lucrative source of income.