Pepys Into Your Life
The Benefits of Diary Writing
Keep a Daily Record of Events in Your Life
On January 1st, 1660 Samuel Pepys began a diary. At the end of each day, he wrote, in meticulous detail, of his daily existence. He kept his diary for nine years before reluctantly ceasing due to failing eyesight.
We don't know why Pepys decided to keep such an in-depth record of his life, but perhaps it is something we should all try to emulate; the therapeutic benefits of getting one's thoughts down on paper (negative as well as positive) are widely accepted by present day psychologists.
An Uneventful Existence?
"But my life is so incredibly dull and uninteresting," you may argue "what can I possibly write about?"
Be assured, your life is no more mundane than the next person. Samuel Pepys was just an ordinary citizen of his day and age - a twenty-six-year-old London clerk.
So write about anything you like, just unburden your mind on paper and you'll find it beneficial. Think how rich our knowledge of history would be if more ordinary people had left some written record of their lives.
We know most of the factual details and dates of the major events in history, but isn't it so much more interesting to read a personal account by someone who actually witnessed those happenings with their own eyes?
The nine years covered by Pepys' diary included his own experience of living at the time of The Plague in 1665 and The Great Fire of London the following year. Both these events are well-documented in the history books but Pepys' personal daily account of the circumstances as they actually arose is much more refreshing. We're able to discover how he feared for his life when the Plague took hold in the hot, dry summer of 1665, and how he thought he would lose his own house as the flames from the burning capital threatened to engulf it.
Perhaps not all of us live through such interesting times, but a documentary of our own personal existence can still be of use not only to ourselves but also to our loved ones when we have gone (hopefully) to a better place.
Have you ever wondered, when an elderly friend or relative dies, about the wealth of information that has died along with them? It's as if a whole library has been burned to the ground; but if they had left a written testament, some of their thoughts and feelings would remain to enrich the lives of others.
You don't have to keep a diary for the benefit of anyone else: just do it for yourself; It's a great memory jogger. In these days of modern technology, there's no need even to put pen to paper; access to a laptop means you can write almost anywhere.
But, a word of caution here; anything committed to paper or discs can always fall into the wrong hands; so if you have some deep, dark secret, keep your diary well hidden from prying eyes.
When I was a teenager my mother used to take a sneaky peek at my diary, and now I have a teenager of my own, she too, is inquisitive about my daily entries. Everything in life travels full circle.
"Gosh Mum, this is just like a real novel!’ my daughter declares. “Why don't you get it published?"
Start your diary now - don't wait until January.
Buy a plain book with no dates, which leaves you free to write as much or as little as you want; everyone has days that are less interesting than others. It will save you from continuously writing "Nothing much happened today." and leaving the rest of the page blank.
Don't worry too much about spelling or being grammatically correct at first, unless you intend to publish your diary as a memoir, Treat your diary as an exercise in self-expression; no one is going to reprimand you for any errors if your journal is intended for your eyes only. Try to write at the same time each evening so that you have a complete picture of the events which have occurred that day.
When you've kept your diary for a month or so, read back over your entries and you'll be pleasantly surprised at recapturing even recent events, already forgotten. If like me, you have a poor memory that grows worse with age, you'll find that keeping a diary is a marvellous help.
Beware of friends and relatives who know you are an enthusiastic diarist; if they too have dreadful memories, there will follow the inevitable requests:
"Err, where did we go on holiday five years ago this summer?"They will ask.
Not only will you be able to name the long-forgotten destination but you could also tell them what everyone wore and even describe the in-flight meal; plus other innumerable snippets of information which no-one could possibly have recalled.
It is thirty years since I began my first diary, and now, looking back through some of my earlier ones it seems as if I'm peeping through a time warp into the existence of another person. We are in a constant state of change as we travel along the highway of life and our personalities are made up of a vast storehouse of experiences which happen to us on the way.
Life is hectic, but next time you have a few moments to yourself write down some of your most precious experiences instead of entrusting them to mere memory alone.
Start a Journal - Write Away!
The Diaries of Samuel Pepys
After reading this article, would you keep a journal?
© 2015 Stella Kaye