Sixty Years of Journal-Keeping

By Donald Richie

A journal is a personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections that is kept on a regular basis. “A regular basis” is the operative part of that definition. It’s a diary. And people have kept them over the centuries, for all sorts of reasons: as an aide-memoire, as a kind of a daybook, or as a companion. No matter how you use it, though, basic to the journal is the fact that time passes.

The passage of time is a matter we commonly regret, and something we’re always talking about. One of the ways of holding on to passing time is to transcribe it, and this we tend to do when we have the leisure or the motivation for doing so. I think for that reason the most common kind of journal is the travel journal—the travel diary, because we are observing new things that inspire us to write. We also have the time to write. We have a strong sense of transience, and stopping time in its tracks being one of the things we want to do, we have the motivation to preserve the moment and at the same time to somehow or other maintain “us,” the observers—we know we are there. If we don’t keep a journal, or something like it, very often we are not exactly certain if we were there or not.

To read the complete article, see the PDF here.

Originally published in the SWET Newsletter, No. 119 (April 2008); published online with the permission of the Donald Richie estate

This version © Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators, 2013