April 6 is the first day of my New Year. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, it is close to the beginning of spring, and until relatively recently in human history, the new year was celebrated with the coming of spring at the end of March. Second, it is the day that my favorite author, Isaac Asimov, died, now some 14 years ago. But there is a reason above all others that April 6 is my New Year.
April 6, 1996 was the very first day I started keeping a diary. When I started doing this, it was my intention to be as disciplined as possible about it, but you never really know how that will turn out. When I was younger, I’d tried keeping a diary in one form or another and it never seemed to last more than a few weeks. Today, however, is April 6, 2006 and I have now been keeping my diary for ten years–a full decade.
After I’d kept my diary for a year, I found it interesting to look back a year, on occasion, and see what it was I was doing “one year ago today”. As time went on, and the diary became a habit, I found I was able to glance at it from time-to-time, looking for what I did “three years ago” today, “five years ago” today, etc. Now, for the first time, I can look back and see what it was I was doing a full decade ago.
But why the urge to keep a diary in the first place? I’m not sure I can explain this, but it is just something that seemed interesting to do. I’d read about many people (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Adams) who were fervent diarists. Some of my role models in the science fiction world were too, Isaac Asimov for instance, who kept a diary from the age of 18 until his death. I can only say that this impressed me. It seemed to be really cool to have a record that one could look back on, or pass on to others.
Then too, my diary was never something that contained my most private thoughts. Instead, it has acted, these years, more as a daily accounting of my activities. How much writing did I do, and on which story? What sort of significant mail did I receive? Who did I talk to on the phone. From time to time, I’ll complain or gripe in my diary about something or someone who has annoyed me–something that I do there because I don’t feel it’s appropriate to burden anyone else with it. Mostly, it has become a valuable reference for me. On a number of occasions, it has reminded me of things I had completely forgotten, or corrected my memory for things that I had remembered wrong.
My diary has evolved quite a bit in it’s first decade. It started out as a thin blue-gray accounting-ledger-type journal. That lasted for two volumes, from April 6, 1996 through October 1996. Then it changed to much larger, brown leather bound volumes–three of them, which lasted through March 2000. In 2000, I switched to the At-A-Glance Standard Diaries. These smaller, red, hardbound volumes were pre-dated for each year, and I used them from 2000 through 2004. In late 2004, I made the transition to electronic medium, switching to viJournal for the Macintosh. I used viJournal until the very end of December 2005 when I switched to LiveJournal. I have now been using LiveJournal for 96 days, but as it turns out, it is the most convenient form of all and I wish I had the time to go back and enter all of my old diaries into LiveJournal. It would make searching so much easier, for instance.
One thing about keeping a diary for ten years is that, in skimming through the years, you really begin to see how much life can be packed into ten years. Ten years ago, I was not yet married. Both my Grandparents were still alive and well. I had been at RAND for less than two years. I’d never owned a new car. I traveled very little for work. I had no real thoughts about getting my pilots license. On the other hand, I was trying to write and get published back then. I seemed to have a number of ideas about how to improve my writing. I would often record these in my diary and then never actually do them. This is something that makes reading the older entries somewhat embarrassing. Ten years ago I was living on Arch Drive in Studio City. Things have a come a long way since then.
I couldn’t write about the 10th anniversary of my diary without actually including that first entry, what I wrote ten years ago today. There are a few things to preface it, however. First, I read I. Asimov, the last volume of Isaac Asimov’s extensive autobiography, every April, starting on April 1 and ending around April 6, on the day he died. This has been a tradition for me since 1994–before I was keeping my diary. I always get emotional at the end. The “afterword” is written by Isaac’s wife Janet, and of course, Isaac dies in the end and that saddens me. The second thing is that, as I mentioned, in the early days, I would often write down things I thought I should try to improve my writing, and some of that is in that very first entry. And having said that, without further delay, here is what I wrote in that very first diary entry, 3,652 diary days ago:
Saturday, April 6
I finished I. Asimov this afternoon at about 4 PM, precisely as I had
hoped to do. I cried more this time than last because I think each
time I read it, I realize just how much of a loss it is.
Tawnya and I rented “Babe” this evening–the first time either one of
us saw it. It was humorous. I also began Robert Heinlein’s Double
Star which looks pretty short and will probably take me less than the
Late this evening, I wrote a letter to grandma and grandpa. We got a
letter and package from them today. Grandpa sent the “graduation”
chimes he’d been promising.
I have to say that I really do love Asimov’s fiction. Critics
complain that it’s style is simple and that it often lacks
characterization. But something about it connected with SF fan and
if I can figure out what it was, it may help my own writing. So I am
going to try to read as much of his shorter fiction as I can and try
and identify what makes the story successful. I seem to be under the
impression that all of my sf stories have to have some “galactic”
significance or be “breakthroughs”–but what about everyday stories.
Stories like “The Black Widowers”? By using Asimov’s short fiction
as example (after all, it worked for him) and keeping up with current
fiction–say , spending one weekend per month reading F&SF, SF Age,
et. al.–maybe I’ll actually start selling.
Oh yeah–one other thing. Clocks get turned ahead tonight.
There you have it. I brief accounting of what I did ten years ago today. I would never have remembered that I watched “Babe”, but having gone back to read the entry, I can remember going to the BlockBuster near Ventura and Laurel Canyon to rent it, and I can remember how our living room was arranged when we watched it. On the otherhand, I did remember starting to read Double Star that evening. I remember reading it while taking a short walk.
Back then, when I first started out keeping the diary, I wondered (somewhat grandiosely) what my diary entry would say ten years later. Well, here it is. That is certainly one thing that hasn’t changed. Right now, as I write this, I still wonder: what will my diary entry have to say for April 6, 2016?
Happy New Year!