There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an extremely stressful year for people around the world. Did you know that writing is said to reduce stress, especially the writing of a journal? Pouring one’s thoughts and problems into a diary is a form of emotional release, it helps you organise your thoughts and it clears the brain.
Recent research in America showed that diary-writing for 15 minutes a day, three times per week, improved the health of patients. Have any of you taken to diary-writing during the Covid year?
Some famous diaries have been written during times of great personal stress. Anne Frank kept hers, in the form of letters to an imagined friend named Kitty, while in hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis. Samuel Pepys, my favourite diarist ever, wrote almost daily throughout the Plague and the Great Fire of London. In the notebooks he kept, known as the Heiligenstadt Testament Beethoven wrote of the challenges he faced keeping his growing deafness a secret and dealing with depression, while Marie Curie’s journals have to be stored in lead-lined boxes because they were so often in the laboratory where she did research on radioactivity. I wonder what interesting journals might emerge from our Covid year?
I have not yet read The Diary of Lena Mukhina, written by a young girl living through 20th century horrors in Leningrad, but I believe it is very powerful and moving. Two English favourites of mine are The Diary of a Country Parson by James Woodforde (remarkable for its chronicles of the huge meals this 18th century parson ate) and Kilvert’s Diary by the Rev. Francis Kilvert who lived on the English/Welsh border in the Victorian era.
These days of course diaries take different technical forms – blogs and vlogs, youtube clips, etc. But if, in the best tradition, you have turned to pouring your heart and problems out into some form of journal, I hope it has reduced stress and brought you comfort.
Time will tell which diaries of 2020 will play a part in enriching world literature. Will yours? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Susannah Fullerton: Do you weep over books?
Susannah Fullerton: Happy Birthday, Anne Frank
Susannah Fullerton: About Dutch Literature
Susannah Fullerton: Happy Birthday Samuel Pepys
Susannah Fullerton: The Thrill of Awards
Susannah Fullerton: Plague Literature