For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
June 15, 2000 - Journals and Diaries
Throughout much of my life, I've kept a journal. It started back in sixth grade, when I got a nicely bound diary for Christmas.
Back then, I recorded such important facts as the weather, and which girls were beautiful. The rest was highly subjective. (Not that my idea of feminine beauty was particularly objective, being based largely on whether or not the girl noticed me at all.)
As life got more complex, so did my observations. I've got journals from high school, college, and work. I've recorded the birth of children and the death of grandparents and parents. I've painstakingly analyzed truly labyrinthian political and professional quandaries.
My journals have tended to get more detailed over time for another reason. Years later, going back to earlier journals, I found that I often had no idea what I was writing about. "Today Stephanie was unbelievably cruel to me. It has changed me forever." Who was Stephanie? (Would-be girlfriend? Teacher?) What did she do? (Ignored me? Made fun of my socks? Flunked me?) Did I deserve it? (Almost certainly.) How did I change? (My guess: not at all.) So I've learned to spend more time on background, context, and precise descriptions.
Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons, says he draws much of his material from journals he kept in elementary school, particularly in his "Life is Hell" series of cartoon books. I can believe it. Journals keep you honest.
I now have built up a fairly comprehensive case proving that I have been, to a remarkable extent, a complete idiot. But this reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: "Good judgment is based on experience. And experience is based on bad judgment."
While I strongly doubt this will happen with my own journals (mostly because I intend to destroy them, probably as soon as I finish this column), some journals have even become famous. Over 300 years ago, Samuel Pepys not only captured his thoughts, but his times. "The Diary of Anne Frank" preserves the luminous innocence of a young girl in a time of great trial.
But the simple act of recording the day's events (the Latin word for "day" being the root word for both journal and diary) has led to the creation of many other books.
For instance, I recently did a title keyword search on the Douglas Public Library District's computer catalog for two words: "diary" and "journal."
"Diary" pulled up 246 matches. The word seems to attract more women authors. The library has an impressive collection of diaries by pioneer women. For men, diaries are more likely to deal with wars. It makes you wonder: do we think diaries deal more specifically with emotions? Are men more likely to be emotional, or honest about their emotions, only when challenged with extreme physical hardship?
"Journal" got 408 listings in our catalog. But that's because the word appears in a good many professional magazines, and often lends an authoritative stamp to the secondary publications of newspapers, as in "the Wall Street Journal's Guide to Finance."
Books using the term "journal" often have a more consciously reportorial or "journalistic" aim. Such books tend to dwell on historic or political events, and focus, or attempt to focus, on objective data.
At any rate, if you've got any idea of becoming a published writer, I suspect that journal-keeping is a good place to start. (Journals are often used in various kinds of therapy, too.) Whatever your desire, we certainly have plenty of titles that will help you get rolling.
Why not start ... today?