Calling all diarists: would you like to take part in a survey?

If you keep a diary, whether online or offline, I would love your input for a project I’m undertaking in my final year at university. Click here to fill out an anonymous survey about your diary-keeping habits. Thanks!

Diaries have always fascinated me – from reading about the minutiae of the life of someone with no claim to fame other than to have lived through a particular period of time, to the habits and thoughts of the talented and the famous. I’ve kept a diary myself since I was about 15 years old, and the practice is very interesting to me.

When a dear friend introduced me to Katherine Mansfield’s writing a few years ago, I was immediately taken by her allusions to and descriptions of her native New Zealand, so often written about from so far away – both spiritually and physically.

But it was when I got to her diaries and letters that KM really came alive to me. Her words spat and crackled with vitriol and passion, or else they soothed and calmed with a delicious conjuring up of images of the places she visited and people she met.

KM’s diaries and letters are a pleasant combination of a running commentary on her writing work, and of the perhaps more mundane things such as weather and daily activities. It’s a combination that wouldn’t work without her playful, often mischievous (occasionally childlike?) way of looking at things.

Where other literary diarists ramble on incessantly about the trials and tribulations of writing – instead of actually getting any done – KM touches on her stories as they come together, and the concerns she has as they are sent off to publishers. And she offsets the talk of ‘work’ with beautiful illustrations of her surroundings or vivid accounts of conversations with others.

Although she would at times demand that her diaries be destroyed, it is a wonderful thing that they have come to be published and loved so widely. It is thanks to this that she has become a renowned diarist.

I’m often interested when speaking to fellow KM enthusiasts, to find out whether it’s her fiction or her personal writing which they get more out of. I must admit that for me it’s the latter. I couldn’t take one without the other, but I’ve always leaned more to the diaries and letters of writers than to their fiction, for some reason.

All of this has indirectly led up to a project I am undertaking for my final year at university. I’m studying Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, and have decided to focus my attention on asking why we keep diaries, what we get out of them, and whether the medium in which they are kept  (on paper or online) alters the way we write about ourselves.

I’m recruiting fellow diarists (whether online, on paper, or both) to help with my research for this project by filling out an anonymous survey about their diary habits. No personal or demographic information is recorded – I simply want to gather some thoughts on the nature of diary writing from as many people as possible.

If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved in, could I ask that you click here to fill out an anonymous online survey? I can provide more information, should you like it – just email me: paul.capewell@stu.mmu.ac.uk.

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