“How and why to start a journal” – from ‘The Art of Manliness’

I’m not sure how I feel about the overt ‘manliness’ of this website – but much of what they say about writing a diary is true, and good advice.

In studying the lives of great men, I’ve noticed a common trait: they were all consistent journal writers. Now, I’m not saying that their greatness is directly attributable to their journaling. I’m sure Captain Cook would still have been a bad ass even if he hadn’t kept a diary. But I figure, if great men like these thought it was important to keep a journal, maybe I should, too. Heck, if it weren’t for their journals, we probably wouldn’t know much about their great lives and deeds.

It’s interesting to me to read about how people keep diaries and journals – and especially how and why they get started. In fact, it’s a subject I find so interesting that I did my degree’s final year project on the subject, and along the way I asked a bunch of people detailed questions about those very concepts. Remind me to tell you some more about the resulting data and report some time…

Anyway. Along with a lot of the advice and justification behind starting – and keeping – a journal, I actually began to rather like the fact that this stuff was coming from a site which dubs itself The Art of Manliness. Journaling and diary-keeping is often thought of as something girls and women are more likely to do than boys and men. A lot of surveys actually bear out these trends. But there’s no particular reason why this should be the case.

The article is actually nearly four years old but, along with keeping a diary, most of the content is timeless.

Under ‘Why keep a journal’, the article states:

  • Your children and grandchildren will want to read it.
  • It can bring you to your senses.
  • Journaling grants you immortality.

I really like that last one. It rings true with a lot of references I came across in my research into diary-keeping – particularly Philippe Lejeune’s ‘How Do Diaries End?’, which I wrote about at some length in this blog post (and which, cunningly, also wound its way into my final year project).

Thinking of keeping a diary, but need advice on how to do it, or why? Have a look at How and why to start a journal. Especially if you’re a chap. Already keep a diary? It’s still pretty interesting to read some of the points raised in the article.

17,000 words

17,000 words. Seventeen thousand! That’s what I was sifting through earlier today, in analysing the questionnaire responses I received for my diary project, currently in progress.

I started the project late last year, and the vast majority of the surveys were returned before the end of the year. They lay dormant until just now, as I grappled with coursework and other pressing matters as the Spring term went on.

So it’s only now that I’ve really started to look at what I’ve got. 25 responses, each answering between 15 and 20 questions on why they keep a diary. And what does that add up to? Around 17,000 words.


My main milestone today was getting the answers into a more usable format; thus far, I had a PDF of each questionnaire, answered fully and lovingly by those kind enough to participate. But what I have now is one ‘master’ document, with each question followed by each respondent’s illuminating, candid answer.

It’s really quite a lovely document.

As I’d hoped, diarists make good subjects for questionnaires. And if there’s anything I’ve learnt about diaries and diarists so far, it’s this:

If you ask people who enjoy writing about themselves to write about themselves, you should expect a lot of words back.

And hurrah for that. It’s not just a lovely thing for me to read, it’s proving to be incredibly useful primary data for my final year research project. I’ve made some graphs and begun highlighting passages ripe for quoting in the report itself.

The project’s deadline is two weeks tomorrow, so if you’ll excuse me, I have a little work to do…