I suppose that, if you are reading me, the word “diary” will not seem very strange to you. You may have one that you write in regularly. Or that you have had it at some point in your life. Or maybe you’ve never tried it.
My suggestion with this post is that you write an “experiential diary.” Because?
Well, first of all, because writing is highly therapeutic, and allows us (as we do with dreams when we sleep) to integrate and assimilate situations that our rational mind otherwise blocks, for not wanting to face pain or suffering.
Writing is a means to connect with what we feel and express it in a way that we can turn negative into positive. Writing is highly therapeutic.
We tend to repress or ignore emotions that we don’t like, which in the medium term causes innumerable problems (physical and psychological). autobiography writing is a means to connect with what we feel (fear, anxiety, hopelessness, joy, sadness…) and express it in a way in which we can turn the negative into positive (beauty, empathy, love, tenderness…).
On the other hand, keeping a diary allows you to leave a testimony of your own life story. And, regardless of whether this may be a legacy for your loved ones or you prefer to leave it in an intimate area, it is something that you can return to at some point and that can help you fit the pieces of the puzzle of your life together.
Making a diary is deceptively easy: you write down what happened that day (or whatever seems most relevant to you) and that’s it. However, making a journal that really helps you assimilate what happened, turn the negative into a positive, and leave an interesting and authentic testimony (for yourself or for others) is not so easy.
That’s why I have named the diary that I suggest you keep “experiential,” and I share with you some tips that can help you do it in an effective and joyful way.
10 tips to start your diary
1. Use concrete words
“Love”, “solidarity”, “light”, “think”, “sadness” or “anguish” are abstract words. “Mask”, “slippers”, “laces”, “hug”, “cat”, “blue” or “microwave” are specific words. They differ in that we cannot see, touch, smell, hear or feel the former, while the latter awaken some of our senses. Write your diary primarily in concrete words. May the things you tell enter through the senses. Then, you will enter the world of experience, while if you use abstractions or reflections, you will remain on a mental or rational plane. If you stay in the abstract, what you will be doing is running away from what you are really experiencing, instead of bringing it to light.
2. Narrate facts
In the same vein as the previous one, it narrates events, using the coordinates of time, place and action. Something happens over a certain period of time in specific places. Don’t stay in the limbo of mental musings. Let things happen, let the characters (which are the people brought to paper, including you) move, talk, react, go to the bathroom, lie down on the couch, shit on everything. And it is through those actions that you will go to the essence of what you want to convey.
This is very important, because by trying to capture in detail what has happened to you, you will realize nuances that you had not seen at the time, which will help you process it and store it in the memories of the past.
3. Everything happens in one day
In a journal it is valuable to keep in mind that the day —every day— has a beginning and an end. Each note is the final extract of each day. Each entry has the value, in itself, of being the reflection of a brief time, of certain vital situations, already past but still very recent, to which primary importance is attributed.
You don’t have to tell, however, everything that happened to you that day. I recommend that you choose an event that has particularly caught your attention due to its emotional charge. That event, better if it happens in a short time: one hour, twenty minutes, five minutes…
4. Use a natural voice
Let the way of narrating be natural, and not supposedly literary. Transfer your tone of voice to your writing, as if you were in a bar telling a friend what happened to you that day. Creative writing is closely related to the sense of hearing. The story comes to those who read as if it were being told in a low voice in their ear. And it is immediately noticeable whether the writer uses an artificial or authentic voice.
Even if no one is going to read your diary, you will believe what you say more if you use a natural voice than if you become conceited or artificial.
5. Show emotions
Express emotions through your voice, what happens and small gestures or environmental details. Don’t try to express them directly (“I was very sad when I read the news”); fabricate them for the reader through concrete situations (“when I read that horrible headline, the sandwich I was eating choked on me”).
The heart is what governs our actions (whether we like it or not, whether we see it or not). In writing it is the same, only we can handle it better. It would be like feeling again what we have experienced in a more conscious way. If the wave of life generally overwhelms us, when we write we can surf it and, furthermore, enjoy it.
6. Give personal details
Although you may feel shy about reflecting what happens in the intimate sphere of your family, your home, your body and your soul, know that the more personal details you give, the more universal the feelings you transmit will be. Nobody (not even yourself) connects with an impersonal text. However, being able to witness the details of a person’s life immediately awakens empathy.
The personal (the way you fold clothes or talk to your cat) is what makes you unique, and at the same time points to feelings and attributes common to the human race. Recreate yourself, when writing, in those types of details that give color and brightness to the experience of life.
Sometimes we don’t have the topic identified when we start writing, but the writing itself usually gives you clues about what needs to come out of you at that moment. Listen to those signs and put yourself at the service of what needs to be…
7. Identify the topic
Try to identify what you want to convey beneath the facts you narrate, and select said facts and actions based on that theme. If you want to convey a relationship conflict, tell what happened while you were preparing dinner together, but maybe you wouldn’t need to tell that you had a latte in the morning.
Sometimes we don’t have the topic identified when we start writing, but the writing itself usually gives you clues about what needs to come out of you at that moment. Listen, then, to those signs, and put yourself at the service of that which needs to be processed.
8. Let a transformation happen
Try to ensure that what you tell has a narrative evolution and that it does not remain stagnant. Through the facts, what underlies the facts and the Outsource eBook Writing process itself, a transformation is taking place in you: let that happen, make way for your understanding of the human being and his processes.
In some way, when writing you have to go beyond what happened (or your interpretation of what happened). From the present of the narrative you will discover things that you could not see at the time. You must allow this understanding to emerge and make the experience richer, broader and more meaningful.
Be creative and allow yourself to do so: what matters is that the essence underlying what you are telling is authentic, and not that all the details fit what really happened. Although it may seem like it, the imagination never lies,
9. Use your imagination
Although you are going to base it on real events, it is also important that you use your inventiveness. To give meaning to what you say, you will have to use the colors of your palette in a certain way and not in another. You may exaggerate some things, or you may have to include some detail that did not happen in reality, or, not remembering a scene exactly, you may have to recreate it with your imagination. The word “recreate” itself says it: you are recreating what happened, and you have to give yourself the freedom to do it.
Be creative and allow yourself to do so: what matters is that the essence underlying what you are telling is authentic, and not that all the details fit what really happened. Although it may seem like it, imagination never lies, it will always take you to the essence. The Sufi mystic Ibn Araba said that “imagination is a bridge between matter and spirit.”
10. Give each entry a unit of meaning
Try to give a unitary meaning to each entry in your diary. If anyone reads what you have written about a specific day, they should be clear about what topic you are talking about, what the evolution of the situation is and what conclusion can be drawn from it. That is, the beginning, middle and end structure (usually used for a story) would also be valid for each of the entries in a diary.