I’ve recently discovered Day One, a journal app for iPhone, iPad and MacBook. And because of Day One, I’ve also rediscovered the joys of private writing.
One of the things that I lost over the years, as a novelist, was the pleasure of unpublished writing. Now, of course, the joys of being published far outweigh that – I’m not even going to pretend otherwise. Having an audience of people who actually want to look at the things you put down on paper, that’s amazing.
But there’s a lot to be said about writing solely for myself.
I downloaded the app as an experiment in nature writing. One of the books I enjoyed so much last year was Roger Deakin’s Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, which was a posthumous collection of observations and reflections ironically not intended for publication. As a result, they were very raw and honest, which came together as an utterly fascinating piece of literature. Inspired by that, I’ve started making my own broad sketches, thoughts of the natural world and so on. Sure, I used to have a writer’s notebook, but these days I ended up just firing emails to myself as reminders of thoughts – hardly ideal. And if I’m honest, even then I was conscious and hopeful that my writing might one day see publication in one form or another, that what I was writing would find an audience. Not so with using the Day One app.
Perhaps I grew out of reflection to some extent – or at least reflecting in quite the same way as I used to. Publishing deadlines probably do that to a writer. But the Day One app seems to fit so nicely into a busy life – I can make notes on the go, sync it in the cloud with my other devices, so I can pick it up and continue that line of thought at home. It inspires inward thought, and I don’t have to arse about with pen and paper while I’m at it.
And the important thing for any of these pieces of writing is that they are not for publication. Unlike a writer’s notebook, I never intend for any of these sketches to be seen by anyone other than me. Unlike a blog or Twitter, they’re not out there in the hope someone stumbles across them. It’s very liberating. It’s something of a relief, in fact, to be writing without the angst or the worry. It even seems a brief countercultural statement in an age where everyone likes to punt out a piece of writing online. Sure, this is all self-indulgent nonsense, but isn’t that what private writing is about?