A Grown-Up's Diary: Creating for an Audience of One
How do you record your thoughts?
Does your ongoing checklist live outside your head?
Did you stop drawing and playing with stickers once you hit puberty?
Do you believe that diaries were meant for pondering elementary school crushes and not much else?
These are the sorts of questions I was grappling with three and a half years ago when I was talking to my then co-worker and (still) friend, Jefferson Burruss, in the lobby of GSD&M. We were both entertaining the thought of starting a Moleskine for those very purposes. He said, let's go buy a couple right now. We walked out the door and went across the street to Book People and each bought our first Moleskine.
This week I started Book No. 27.
Every booklet has been filled cover-to-cover with to-do list items ranging from "Get invoices out today" to "Do a deep stretch," "Get team briefed on Vegas Tourism new biz pitch" to "Think on a fun trip for the family." In between these to-do lists are semi-daily entries that range from what I did yesterday, to thoughts on what's going on in my personal life, to just mere notes of gratitude to remind myself how lucky I am to be alive.
There is something powerful about writing down the thing you are thinking at that moment. It seems redundant at the time, because you aren't really uncovering anything new at first, you're just recording your thoughts that live in that moment. But it's practicing the same principle we learned in doing homework—if you write it down, it reinforces the information in your head.
I am constantly trying to think through career goals, celebrating wins, and noting missteps. But work and life blur in the Moleskine entries, and I think that's a really positive thing. Because life is work, and work is life. At least a part of it, anyway. If work is just a chore that we are trying to get through and then shut the door on, I think it's time to take a hard look at what we're doing for work and maybe consider changing that up in some way to make it better.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge proponent of maximizing life outside of work. I just don't think the two should be at complete odds with each other.
Beyond the written portion, I fill pages with drawings and stickers to my own pleasing. I have several sticker books and packages I pull from, and draw a lot of different stuff. Some totally random, and others in a series, like one I call "As I Remember It." The whole relationship I have formed with these books is similar to one we have with social media. But this is only for me. There's something interesting about that; when the motivation changes, the vulnerability is curbed, and you're free to create for an audience of one: you.
For that reason alone, I think it's a worthy pursuit.
I asked Jefferson for his thoughts on what we've been doing and this is what he had to say: "Having something compact, flexible, close by, grab and go, to put in a backpack or back pocket made all the difference. I got to my latest notebook not by focusing on a goal like 'I need to journal' but rather on an idea. That memorable moments don't need gravity to make them memorable. If anything, it has helped me see more of them in the present. That's nothing you can capture in words."
So, if you're looking for some unsolicited advice, I have some. Find yourself a friend who will push you to act on simple and quality impulses, without overthinking.
Oh, and consider starting to journal. It's worth it.