If, on average, I spend an hour a day writing in my journal (a rough, but sadly fairly accurate, estimate), and there are 24 hours in a day (incontrovertible), and I have been keeping a journal for 25 years (a bit longer, in fact, since the first journal entry is dated 28.11.84); then over those 25 years, an entire year has been swallowed up recording the minutiae of my life. Including, of course, references to this strange, compulsive habit of writing a journal.
I daren’t try to calculate the thousands (hundreds of thousands? gulp, millions?) of words spilled onto those pages. The purpose of the journal, the material recorded, indeed how much I write and how long I spend writing in it each day has changed over the years. I hardly ever now reread old passages; I’ve learnt how self destructive (not to say indulgent) that can be. But if I go for much longer than a day without updating my journal I start to feel anxious. This seems to be a fundamental need, to set down – pin down, crystallise – the fact of my having lived in the world. To prove it to myself, as much as to anyone else.
There’s a great photo, in Significant Others – Creativity & Intimate Partnership (ed. Whitney Chadwick & Isabelle de Courtivron), of Anaïs Nin kneeling in a bank vault, surrounded by teetering piles of her diaries. My not-quite-groaning shelf of journals seems modest in comparison.