Keeping a diary - because your story matters!


Have you ever kept a diary?

I kept diaries at various parts of my life. Sometimes I reread them and cringe and the things I wrote. I want to go back and ask younger Sarah “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” 

But other times, I read them and remember. I remember incidents that I’d forgotten. I remember emotions that I’d managed to gloss over in my memory, because maybe they were too painful. 

Then there was the time I read my diary and remembered something that I’d stopped doing, something that used to bring me joy and purpose. 

That thing, dear readers, was writing. I’d wanted to be a writer, but was discouraged from doing so because I’d “never make a living.” Remembering that writing had been such an important part of me was an important part of healing, at a very difficult time of my life. (You can read about that here, if you’re interested.) 

I was first inspired to keep a diary by one of the most famous diarists of all time - Anne Frank. 

I first visited the Anne Frank Huis in Amterdam when I was about 8 years old. That was when my parents bought me a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, and I read it, both fascinated and horrified, because I already knew how the story ended.  Anne was like me, a curious Jewish girl who liked to write. But she was also unlike me: trapped in the Secret Annex hiding from the Nazis, and sharing her bedroom with a grumpy middle aged dentist. It made me wonder if I should stop complaining about sharing a bedroom with my younger sister. 


I’ve read Anne’s diary many times, at different ages, and each time I take away something different. As a young girl, I was inspired to keep a diary. As a woman, I wondered what works humanity lost when a talented writer like Anne was killed before her time, merely for the fact of being Jewish. I also volunteered as a docent when the Anne Frank: A History for Our Time exhibit came to our local high school. 

Now we’re all cooped up indoors for a different reason. The thing we’re afraid of is a virus, COVID19. 

You know how we say that one human year is equal to seven dog years? In #CoronavirusYears, one human year is like a century, because things are changing so quickly.  That’s when it’s most important to keep a diary - so we can read back and remember what life was like a few weeks ago. 


There’s a new project called #MOC19 Mass Observation COVID19. You can read about it here. You don’t have to keep your blog online. You can do it old school, like we wrinklies used to. Here are pictures of a diary I kept in 2001, and an entry I wrote shortly after 9/11. 

I’d forgotten that incident. I’d forgotten those feelings. I wasn’t a published writer back then, but my words remind me - and perhaps someone in the distant future, for whom 9/11 is ancient history - what it was like to live through that time. 

Your story is a part of this history. Write it down, a little every day. Years from now, you’ll read back and be surprised at what you’ve forgotten. Words help us remember. 

Copyright 2020 Sarah Darer Littman
PO Box 201, Cos Cob, CT 06807-0201