Impressionism, social media, and a diary notebook. What can these three possibly have in common? I believe all of these serve as channels that store and deliver our memories. Impressionist paintings, such as Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, have left an indelible stroke in art history by defying the conventional styles and immediately expressing what meets the eyes. Beyond their artistic beauty, their essence of capturing the artists’ fleeting moments appeals to our shared desire to hold onto and revisit our memories. The same also applies to social media and diaries in the modern context. Nowadays, Instagram is a popular platform that we use to capture and share our many moments. Some of us also keep a diary as a hobby and entertain being both an actor and chronicler of our lives. Regardless of their different nature, impressionism, social media, and a diary can all help us document and chew over our everyday experiences. Of these three examples of memory keeping, I’d like to draw attention to the third: the art of diary-keeping. Journaling not only gives me satisfaction over having something written, but also enriches my daily experiences both at the moment and in retrospect. I personally find that writing a diary is the most meaningful way of keeping memories, for three reasons.
First, through journaling, we can keep a vivid record of what took place. Compared to other visual media that merely capture the external features of objects or people, the written form of our experience can immediately bring us back into the scene, refreshing our memories about what we were thinking, how we were feeling, etc. To enjoy this advantage of journaling, however, it is necessary to cultivate a habit of writing precisely. According to A. C. Benson, an English author, “a diary need not be a dreary chronicle of one’s movements; it should aim rather at giving a salient account of some particular episode, a walk, a book, a conversation.” This involves amplifying the five senses, keenly observing our surroundings, and putting them into concrete words. Such process of writing leads us to discover and appreciate the most trivial details of everyday life. Reading detailed journals later on also helps us remember and reinterpret our past, spotting areas of personal growth and change.
Second, keeping a diary engages us with active reflection. As a frequent user of Instagram myself, I agree that it is a convenient tool for capturing our daily instances, but it often takes away the valuable process of mulling over our experiences. I have noticed that when I post Instagram stories, it often becomes a mundane fact-reporting system of “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when”. Writing a journal, on the other hand, leads us to sharpen our ideas with “how” and “why”, the more thought-provoking questions that may be worth pursuing. Journaling drives us to be active observers and thinkers as the process of writing engages us to question our identity, life goals, and values.
Lastly, writing a diary allows us to enjoy writing. Journaling gets my creative juices flowing more than any other occasion since I can focus on jotting down my first thoughts, unconstrained by grammatical rules. Bullet-pointing incomplete sentences also gets my writing momentum going and renders a good sketch of my day once pieced together, just as the impressionist paintings roughly capture the essential features of a landscape. Journaling is a wonderful release of creativity and expression.
While some of us might prefer different methods of memory keeping, for those who are looking for one, I would wholeheartedly recommend journaling for the above reasons. It immerses the writer in active engagement with the past, deeper thought processes, and creative writing. Keep a diary, and someday it might keep you!