The Diary and Memory

Picasso is reputed to have said that painting is just another way of keeping a diary. Many artists and writers keep a diary, if only to jot down a thought, sketch an image, or capture a lyric moment. Drawing a picture or journaling a series of words retains a more vivid impression than leaving the scene unwritten and unrecorded and therefore potentially forgotten. Whether the diary is composed of images or words, or whether it is real or imagined, a diary is an invaluable collection of personal experience. Indeed the word diary is derived from the Latin, diarium (daily allowance of food or pay) which came to mean a daily written record of the writer’s own experience. The word journal, derived from the French jour, journal, meaning a daily record of happenings, can be applied to newspapers, magazines, and periodicals.

Ironically, when we are too preoccupied with our day’s activities, we fail to record our impressions and the principle of keeping a diary or journal is forgotten. A university colleague of mine who teaches art said that his students have abandoned the capacity to sketch or draw, relying on computer generated images. What will happen in future generations if the manual tools of the diary — cursive writing, sketching and music notation — fade from use and are for the most part lost?