kdsch.org · about · rss

2023 Dec 11

A decade of diarism

Ten years ago, I wrote the first post in my personal, electronic diary. It actually wasn’t my first try with diarism, but it’s the one that survived.

I wasn’t spurred to adopt it by a faddish impulse to improve myself. I realized that I got something from self-reflection. That realization began in a tender time of burdensome belief and fallacious faith. Somehow, despite my half-closed mind, I couldn’t suppress my desire to think, to understand myself.

I remember dimly one of the short-lived attempts. It was spirit log.txt, authored in Notepad. I bottom-posted and used F5 to datestamp each entry. The scope quickly expanded to include any of my thoughts, not just the spiritual ones. The rationale was that if I am a spiritual being, all of my thoughts are spiritual.

The current diary is log.md, edited with vis. I still use F5 to insert a datestamp, via a custom keybinding. An odd legacy from my era of frustration with Windows.

Despite my attempts to write more on this website, log.md receives most of my attention. The file has grown to 5.2 megabytes. I believe the longevity of the habit stems from ease in creating new entries. There are no titles, no new file paths to specify. I type vis log.md, zip to end-of-file with G, hit F5, and write. There is no maintenance overhead other than backing up when I worry about losing it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a script to parse the Markdown into a date-based file tree. I even added Git tracking with retroactive commit dates scraped from the entry headers. But I couldn’t devise a low-friction way to create new entries. I kept using my old, one-file approach. The habit kept working.

The diary, or log, as I call it, has all kinds of stuff. I can read how I changed. I captured a mathematical, philosophical period. Some writings were polished enough to publish. Most have never been edited.

That’s something I learned recently, that editing makes good writing. It’s just like code. If you don’t maintain it, it rots. But of course I already knew that. I remember fondly editing English papers in high school. My enjoyment of English has persisted over two decades.

Feeling joy for English is apparently an unusual trait for engineers, as engineering is an unusual trait for English writers. I’m used to being unusual, and maybe I can benefit from that.

Profit? I’ve never had confidence in my ability to sell what I write. It doesn’t seem like the right approach for me.

The appreciators of my writing are scattered in the nooks and crannies of my life, like mothballs. I remember when my nurse practitioner asked, through the online messaging portal, “Do you write?” I guess it’s less odd to get a thumbs up from my boss for writing nice work logs in Jira. Still, these are not genres that most people put a lot of effort into.

I guess that’s evidence that my care for language is genuine and intrinsic.

I like Brad Taunt’s encouragement to write brain dumps. That feels like the right advice. But the terminology is disgusting.

Intellectual defecation isn’t much better.

Wait, there’s another literary engineer. Who was it? It was the guy Rob Pike quoted in his talk, “Public Static Void”. Dick Gabriel!

Richard P. Gabriel, to be precise.

Surely, he would agree that we can do better than to call these writings brain dumps. You know, this also connects with Zinsser’s idea that good writing is warm and human, that it evokes the writer’s enjoyment.

So, I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m not going to call this a brain dump. That sounds too much like engineering speak.


Discuss this page by emailing my public inbox. Please note the etiquette guidelines.

© 2024 Karl Schultheisz — source