"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." - Katharine Hepburn
Question #63334 posted on 05/27/2011 3:50 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

How do you choose to keep a journal?
Hand-written, saved in a word document, compiled online with the use of a service like Pyxlin, carved into stone tablets, a cache of tiny papers deposited in a mountain cave by homing pigeons--the possibilities are many, but which do you choose to use and why?

Ardilla Feroz

A:

Dear Ardilla,

I'm not very good at keeping a journal, so I do the following to record my life:

  • Maintain a blog 
  • Email someone special every day 
  • Never delete any of my emails in Gmail

You may have already guessed, but my journaling habits come from laziness and a good dose of journal apathy. In the past, I kept a journal by hand, but the most recent journal I kept was in a Word document because I like typing better. 

--Pilgrim

A:

Dear Ardilla Feroz,

In the past, I kept a hand-written journal on acid-free paper in three-ring binders. I like that method for the feel and the look of being handwritten, but I later decided to switch to digital because of its many advantages:

  1. I can effortlessly create multiple backups, including in far-off locations (online backups to the rescue). No flood, tornado, or fire will destroy my journal.
  2. I can easily search by keyword, or by date. I can't tell you how hard it sometimes is to look up a particular entry in a physical journal when I can't remember exactly what the date was.
  3. I can type much more quickly than I can write, so I feel free to include more detail than if I were writing.
  4. I can more easily include photos I take that go with particular entries.

My method of choice is to keep my journal in plain text, with some minimal LaTeX markup. That way, when I want a really nice-looking version of it, I can easily generate a nicely typeset PDF. However, I still have the plain text original, which will be readable for a very, very long time, no matter what programs come and go in the meantime. (Do you really think that (a) Word will still be around in 20 years, and if so, (b) it will still be able to open files from now?)

Going digital does have some drawbacks, namely:

  1. I still miss the look of handwritten.
  2. It's difficult to know what to do with various physical things that I'd normally glue into my journal, like programs for concerts I went to, nice notes from friends, that sort of thing.

I'm trying to figure out a good solution for #2; the best I've come up with so far is to keep a separate minimal scrapbook, if you will: one that doesn't have any fancy borders or stickers or cutesy things, but simply serves as a place for me to put physical memorabilia. Then, in my actual/digital journal, I could refer to a particular page number in the scrapbook. I'm not totally sold on this idea, but I'm not sure if there's something better. I'm reluctant to scan everything, though, which seems like the only other option.

—Laser Jock

A:

Dear Altogether Andrews,

I keep a hand-written journal that I write in constantly (every day for the past month, but I've also had a crazy month; usually it's about 3 or 4 times a week) and a blog that I update when something interesting happens in my life. I also now have a collection of about 10 journals that I've completely filled within the past 6 years of my life.

-Azriel

A:

Dear Adrilla Feroz, 

I keep my journal in Evernote. In addition to the general benefits of a digital journal, it allows me to look at and make entries in my journal even if I'm not using my own computer. It also makes it really easy to add media clips to my journal entries and provides an online back-up of the file in case my computer decides to die. 

Though now that you suggest it, I'm probably going to start a cache of tiny papers deposited in an obscure cave by homing pigeons. That sounds like a much better idea. 

-Inconveniently Willful

A:

Dear Adrilla,

My journaling currently takes place in a small notebook I made myself that, instead of being bound, is held together by three book rings.  This way I can take out or add pages; this is also handy because I often type my journal entries on my typewriter, so I can take pages out and put them back in again after they have been typed upon.  I also sometimes write in it by hand.

I used to use LDS Journal, but now I tend to only use that one if there's something I find on the internet that I want to copy and paste or link to in a journal entry.

Love from

Queen Alice

A:

Dear Ardilla,

I am simple and old-school: I write in a regular old journal that you can buy from the Bookstore. I like being able to tangibly feel the words that I commit to paper, because it helps me choose my words wisely. I'm prone to rambling otherwise. Plus, it helps me practice my penmanship. I prefer to keep my private life out of the hands of the Internet, if I can avoid it.

-Democritus

A:

Dear Basil,

I don't have the attention span for journaling, it seems. Also my penmanship is nothing to be admired. I keep my Photo a Day blog (which is nice because I know exactly what I was doing every single day), but mostly that has a picture and a small caption or a few short stories about my day. When something big happens, I use LiveJournal to blog about it so I can either lock it with friends only or private.

-Marguerite St. Just

A:

Dear Ardilla,

I keep a blog because they don't take up any space. If I were to keep journals by hand they would never get read, but just sit and gather dust, and I couldn't throw them away because they're important. A blog is so much simpler. I can compose my thoughts, add pictures, and it's all online so it can't be lost. Plus, I don't believe in committing personal things to paper as they can be found and read by anyone. Instead I have two blogs, one public and one private. That way it's all there but I get to choose what I take to the grave with me.

-Genuine Article