Introduction to Adventures in Diary Keeping, a new series

by f

I’ve kept a diary since 2007 and I write in it every day. Without exception. I cannot not write about my life any more than I can not breathe.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am an inconsistent person.

“Inconsistent” is a mild adjective; I’m brutally incapable of focusing on anything. I’ve started and abandoned projects at critical junctures. Nobody will work with me. A lot of people get frustrated with my intellectual ability and total lack of follow-through. I see the look on others’ faces when they’ve heard that something I’ve tried my hand at has failed. Or that I’ve started up again.

(It’ll shock nobody if I say that this post has been sitting in queue for nearly a week.)

My diary-keeping might be the only exception to this trend. I do it every night. It’s my cleansing ritual, my daily meditation, my session of written diarrhea. After I finish writing, a little part of my burden is eased. The analytical zip codes in my brain fire on all cylinders, and soon I unconsciously come up with a game plan or a way to reassure myself things will be all right.

It wasn’t always this way. I always wanted to keep a diary, but it seemed as if I was doomed never to keep one. I never remembered to write; and, if I did, the prospect of recording an entire day’s worth of events felt scary. Life holds so much vibrance. How could I capture everything?

(It turned out — and I will eventually explain why —  this was a rotten question.)

The closest I ever got to keeping a diary was a bad blog I had during the summer of freshman year, where I chastely dated every boy I met. When I look at my old entries now, I feel embarrassed. How lighthearted I was! (More like how directionless, stupid, and foolish I could be.) But most of all the summer happiness hits me like an Acela to the exposed stomach. This attempt would be my last try for quite some time.

Then, after my junior year in college, I sat down with my second-favorite book — How I Live Now — and absorbed the keenness of Rosoff’s narrator, Daisy. Daisy’s her life-or-death wanderings in the midst of an oppressive war had my eyes pinned to the pages. Her story could have been about anything; her feelings were clear even around the imperfect edges of her English. I related.

Even if there was no World War III yet. Even if I wasn’t starving myself. I could feel myself dying of loss as she did, in increments; except my loss was represented by what I hadn’t remembered to record — fragments of my life that I allowed to get away from me without tucking them into my permanent record.

On one very hot afternoon in May 2007, I sat down at my computer and decided I’d keep a diary.

(It had to be an electronic diary. My handwriting is tedious and sometimes I can’t read what I write. What was the point of writing something if I couldn’t read it later? Worse: what was the point of writing anything others couldn’t respond to?)

Writing a public blog was another matter. Typing is more convenient than writing longhand. Furthermore, I could muster up an audience for my entries. Ultimately, though, there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d keep a public blog. There was too much going on in my life right then. I had a boyfriend. I was having sex. I liked spontaneous trips to random places. I’m a terrific liar and I lie frequently.

In short, I am much too secretive. I won’t rip my life open. I know that I have a family that’s a nosy and more than a little search-happy with my name, so this option’s out.

It took me some time to get this right, because I knew I had to get this right from the very beginning. If I didn’t, it would be just another case of failed resolve.


When I was fifteen, I posted to a secret online community. (For now, I’ll call it Subrosa.) The point of the community was simplicity in a time when blogs were noisy, feature-rich monstrosities. is monochromatic; the text is a lighter shade of that color superimposed on a darker background. The community was vast, diverse and anonymous. I found this community via Google during one of my other diary pledges, and kept that going for a few months. I hadn’t stopped writing voluntarily. One fine day, Subrosa shut down. The servers were located in Washington or Texas or some such state, the 10-minute UPS backup died, and all of our information was liquidated. I remember feeling sad about this, but I did keep up with my old acquaintances and soon, I forgot about the community.

Except I didn’t. I kept checking for a replacement. For one of the faithful thousands to come up with a clone. Others came up with blogs patterned after Subrosa, blogs hosted by places like Blogger and WordPress and Livejournal, though the look never came close. Within the next few years, different iterations of Subrosa came into being. Each attempt felt like pieces of the monochrome glued together competently but not seamlessly.

My first time with Subrosa was brief, but the mere act of posting on the site was an adventure.

Secrets themselves are adventures.

” ‘… so you’re going to be very good about keeping this secret. Claudia will keep quiet about hers for a different reason. Her reason happens to be the same as mine.’

‘Which is that?’ Jamie asked.

‘Simply because it’s a secret. It will enable her to return to Greenwich different.’

Claudia looked at Jamie and nodded. Something I had just said made sense.

I continued. ‘Returning with a secret is what she really wants. Angel had a secret and that’s what makes her exciting, important. Claudia doesn’t want adventure … Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts…’ ”

From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg, pg 147

The third version of Subrosa launched sometime in late 2006, but I hadn’t given it too much thought until May, when the urge came like lethal train and told me I had to try recording my life again.

It was time to return to the monochrome.

I hope this post marks the beginning of a series written on keeping diaries. At first I thought to consolidate my experiences into one post, but I found that that was impossible. So look forward to a discussion on diaries, what I learned while keeping one — while reading others — and what unique experiences Subrosa has shown me throughout the years.

One Comment to “Introduction to Adventures in Diary Keeping, a new series”

  1. I very much look forward to this series. It seems like every few months there was yet another blog started and abandoned, because it wasn’t just right.

    I am a miserable diary-keeper. My old hand-written ones are full of, “Well, it’s EIGHT MONTHS since I last wrote in here…”

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