The Art of Keeping a Diary: Why and How


This may seem like an odd topic for the time of year (hopefully you’ve all got a lovely new diary), but here at the Pen Company, we are already busy organising our stock of beautiful 2015 diaries, but why keep a diary at all?

Virginia Wolf, one of the greatest 20th century writers once asked herself what kind of diary she was keeping.

She said:

“Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through.”

But as you might expect, Wolf is not the only author of significance to have kept a diary as Susan Sontag, C.S Lewis and Franz Kafka have all been diary keepers; it is no coincidence therefore, to suspect that keeping a diary helps give writers that all important edge.

So besides being important for those who enjoy writing, what are the other benefits to keeping a diary?

It makes great practice

As already stated, writing just to write offers the opportunity to try out new ideas, methods and styles when there isn’t an audience to consider. On top of this, you can occasionally discover a slither of brilliance within an entry.

Celebrated author, David Sedaris, accepted that although there was in fact a lot of whinging, that “every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote.”

It is a place for catharsis

If you are afraid of expressing your true feelings in whatever difficult situation that you might find yourself in, then there is always a place within a diary for your concerns, worries or grievances.

On the other hand, if someone close to you reads your diary, it may not all go as smoothly. Susan Sontag once asked herself whether she felt bad about reading another person’s diary, only to conclude that at the end of the day, they are simply written to be found.

It may be important therefore that if you do start to keep a diary, make sure that you write it in a light that will not totally infringe on any friendships or relationships.

They can help you become a better person

There is no better way to base judgements on oneself than to measure the amount of growth and change that you have experienced – and what other way to do this than to reflect on your diaries of old.

Whether you have changed your opinion on a particular subject, are able to notice a change in character or even a maturity, you can gauge all of this simply by looking through your old scribblings. And there can be nothing more satisfying than this.


Anna has been a lover of stationery since the age of three, when she got her first red spotted pencil case. Lucky enough to work part time for The Pen Company, she is surrounded by stationery; the dream of many a collector!

  • Oh I love this article. I just happened to get back into journaling. As a way to express thoughts, some for private contemplation, mostly to express gratitude every day. I noticed its a different feeling when you write thoughts down in a handheld physical journal, versus the traditional (now) digital method. I personally think finding a quality journal also helps your thoughts flow better. Like finding the best ingredients to cook a recipe can turn an ordinary meal into a delicious cuisine.