I’m looking for volunteers. Would you be interested in telling your diary story?
One of my goals for this blog has been to gather information from fellow diary enthusiasts. It is very hard to know what diary and journal writing means today — hard to develop a sufficient corpus of data to draw meaningful conclusions about who writes a diary and what they write about. The French scholar Phillippe Lejeune faced this problem early on and employed an innovative research method: he posted a newspaper ad, asking individuals to complete a questionnaire he developed.* Initially, I thought I would try to replicate his method here, using social media to gain access to a larger number of people than Lejeune was able to through the newspaper, but I’m daunted by my lack of both technical and statistical knowledge. I simply don’t know enough to gather or analyze that kind of data. But I do know how to think about stories, so that’s what I propose to gather: people’s individual accounts of their diaries, their diary stories.
These are the 10 questions I’ve developed. What do you think? Are they sufficiently thought-provoking? Do they answer the questions you want to know about people’s diary-keeping habits? Are they overly technical? (I’m worried that they are overly technical and display my scholarly geekery to its fullest.) And, most importantly, would you be willing to answer these questions here?
Diary Stories: 10 Questions
- When did you start keeping a diary or journal? What prompted you to do so?
- How often do you write in your diary or journal?
- Have there ever been periods of time when you ceased to write in your diary or journal? If so, why?
- Describe the physical form of your diary or journal: handwritten or typed? notebook or laptop? etc.
- What do you write about in your diary or journal?
- Have you ever or would you allow someone else to read your diary or journal? Is privacy an important aspect of your diary or journal writing?
- Have you ever read someone else’s diary, published or unpublished?
- Has social media changed your diary writing practices, or changed how you think about your diary? If you use social media, how does your writing in digital formats compare to your diary or journal?
- How often, if ever, do you read through your previous diary or journal entries? Have you ever edited, redacted, or destroyed any parts of your diary or journal? Why?
- What do you plan to do with your diary or journal in the event of your death?
* See Lejeune, On Diary. Eds. Jeremy D. Popkin and Julie Rak. Trans. Katherine Durnin. Manoa, HI: U Hawaii P, 2009. I wrote the questions above without consulting Lejeune’s questionnaire but, upon comparison, they have many similarities — which is not surprising, given our shared interests.
Image source: Ernest Leech’s childhood diary via Chetham’s Library (detail)