There are some things for which I cannot make up my mind. Since 2017, I’ve been writing about my paper journals. I’ve generally kept a journal (or diary, or notebook) since I was 24 years old. The vast majority of this has been on paper. There have been gaps, but this blog has served to fill many of those gaps. After a long gap, in 2017 I came across an article about Henry David Thoreau’s journals, and I wrote about that. In a comment to that post, a reader pointed me to an article on the journals of John Gaad and that was eye-opening to me. Almost at once, I started a paper journal again and have kept that up more or less these last 4+ years, filling nearly nine large Moleskine Art Collection sketchbooks. I love the tactile feeling of the notebook, the paper, and I enjoy writing with my fountain pen.
There have been small gaps along the way even here. Almost a year ago, for instance, I decided to try keeping my journal in Obsidian. That lasted a few weeks before the guilt of not writing my journals on paper began to creep back in. I went back to my paper journal, until later in the year when I decided that, for practical reasons, I should go back to a digital format. That too didn’t last very long before I was back on paper.
Recently, I’ve found myself skipping my journal entries quite a bit because I am too tired to write them out. I have a lot to say, but it takes me a long time to scribble my thoughts out on paper. I missed journal entries for the last 2 weeks of our vacation, for instance. Not writing in my journal is worse than any medium on which I decide to keep it. So I am once more heading back to the digital journal format, flipping and flopping like a politician.
This time, I’m trying to make a better effort. I recently wrote about how I’ve changed my daily notes, using a single file instead of a separate file for each day. These daily notes (captured in a text file in Obsidian) capture the factual part of my day. Often my journal entries were just a reprise of the facts of the day as well. I thought that since I had my daily notes for the facts, I could use my journal for thoughts and introspection related (or not) to those facts. Factual journal entries are quick and easy, but thoughtful, introspective entries require more effort, both mental and physical. Try as I might, I wasn’t up to the task of handwriting these entires and I was losing them because of that.
That is when I decided (back on January 10) to switch to keeping my journal in Obsidian again. This time, however, I am doing it as a deliberate experiment, and I have a goal: keep my journal in digital form in Obsidian for the remainder of 2022. At the beginning of 2023, I’ll review how things went, good and bad, and decide if I want to continue with this format or switch back to my paper journals.
There are some advantages to this:
- Because I preface each entry with an index number, I can refer to journal entries easily in Obsidian using links. My daily notes file can therefore takeover as a chronological index to my journal. Previously, I’ve done this indexing on paper.
- The journal is easier to search, though my need to search it is not that frequent.
- I can type fast and without much effort, unlike handwriting which is slow–much slower than I think–and tiring, so I have the potential of capturing more of those thoughtful, introspective entries.
- I’m committing a year and can reconsider after that, but since I’ve given paper journals many years experimentation, it seems only fair that I try this method for longer than a few weeks.
- If I decide that digital works for me after a year, I can still have my cake and eat it, too. There are services like Lulu that allows one to create books and I can create annual printed volumes of my journals to sit on a shelf with my existing ones if I want to.
One thing I’ll want to look at a year from now is not only if I was successful in keeping the journal in Obsidian for a year, but also was I successful in being more thoughtful and introspective. It will be particularly interesting to see how my new daily notes format (about which I’ll have much more to say in Episode 16 of my Practically Paperless with Obsidian series) combined with my journal text file capture a picture of what goes on in my life.
I thought about just switching without making an announcement like this one, but I felt it would be dishonest for me not to admit this change. If nothing else, it shows that there are some things that are complex enough to me that I can’t readily make up my mind. I’ve failed at this before. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think real experimentation is key to making a final decision on this.
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