When I was 12 years old I started keeping a journal. That habit has persisted, in one form or another, ever since. For a long time it was just a paper journal, kept in a spiral notebook from the school store. In 1999, I also started journaling on OpenDiary.com, which at the time was cutting edge technology – according to one source, it was the first journaling site to implement a comments section. In 2002, my journaling habit moved to www.LiveJournal.com, where it stayed until early 2011. I then moved everything offline into a paper journal, feeling nostalgic about writing in a leather-bound volume. Sometime in 2012, I discovered Day One, a great iOS/OSX app for private journaling.
Today, I am very happy using Day One. However, part of the fun of journaling is going back to read what you’ve written in the past, and with my collection of formats, that was trickier than it had to be. In addition, I grew more and more concerned about the safety of my personal history. What if I lost that box holding all my paper journals? What if my house burned down? What if I lost the massive PDF of all my online journal entries?
I made the decision to move everything into Day One. (I’ve been meaning for years to consolidate – perhaps if I’d started typing in 2003, as I meant to, the task ahead of me would not be so large.) I want to be able to read my personal history, from beginning to end, in one format. I want my data to be safe, should anything happen to it. I also want it to be safe from prying eyes.
Day One is the solution. The app is optionally password-protected, meaning I can write whatever I want without worry about anyone else seeing it. The entire database can be backed up on Dropbox or iCloud, meaning that even if my computer is stolen or I replace my iPhone, I can just download the entire database again. The sync with cloud services also means that I have access to my journal, and can create new entries, from any of my devices. Finally, there are some nice export options, meaning that should I choose a different platform in the future, I can still hang onto all that data.
Looking at my journaling history, I saw there was a ton of data to consolidate. I had text files, PDFs, and about 1,300 written pages to combine.
As of today, I’d call myself almost halfway through the process. All the text from PDFs and text files has been copied and pasted over, and a few notebooks’ worth of text has been painstakingly typed up. (And I’m really wishing I’d started this sooner.) I have several hundred pages of text to type up, but I’m feeling good about approaching this as an ongoing project that’s going to take me a while.
When I started, I took stock of the situation, and analyzed the work I had to do. My first step was to break it up into smaller tasks, and load them into a task-management app. (My favorite is OmniFocus.) Sample tasks include: “Type journal 3.” “Copy 2008.” “Tag 2009.” Breaking it up into smaller pieces allows me some sense of triumph upon completing one of those pieces, but still keeps me accountable to the end goal.
A not-obvious step for me, that preceded most of the others, was to scan all my old paper journals before typing them. Getting them into a digital format, and backed up online, not only took the worry of accidental loss or destruction off my shoulders, it also made the task of typing them physically easier. They’re always with me, whether on my work computer or my home, thanks to the magic of DropBox. I can work on it whenever I like. There’s no page turning, and no glancing away from the computer screen constantly and losing my place in the text. Instead, I am just transcribing one long PDF, full of personal memories.
They took about an hour a piece to scan, so I was able to get through it in the free time of about a week. Now that I’m working on the actual typing, I can usually get in some really good 20-page sessions on nights that I’m feeling productive, but ultimately uncreative.
At the rate I’m moving right now, I don’t anticipate finishing by the end of the year, but that’s okay. I’ve made tremendous progress.
One thing I really enjoy about this compilation is seeing the statistics surrounding my journaling habit. For example, this year alone, I’ve written over 44 thousand words in my personal journal. I can also take a look at my writing habit over the years. My most productive year (with entries still in progress) is 2002, with 439 entries; my least productive journaling year was 2012, with just 50.
It’s also so nice having all that personal history with me, wherever I go. They’ll never get forgotten in a box in my mom’s basement again. I don’t sit down and casually read up on my high school years between meetings or anything, but it’s nice knowing it’s there for me when I want it.
It’s one of the biggest projects I’ve ever taken on, but I am so much looking forward to having it all compiled. Organization is such a satisfying feeling. Journaling has provided me with so many benefits over the years; it’s good to pay it the attention it deserves.