Diary genius

Hope you enjoy this guest post from Ali T on the story of his amazing revamped diary collection….

I am a sucker for nostalgia. For years I have kept shoe boxes full of old letters and photographs, and bizarre trinkets that include airline sick bags, branded bar napkins and cinema ticket stubs, hoping that they will spark fond memories whenever I come to rifle through them again. For almost ten years I have been keeping daily diaries to chronologue my day to day activity, in the hope that one day I will look back on them and remember all the amazing things that I was doing with my life; the fun I was having, the places I was going and the people that were shaping me.

To a certain extent this will be true, because I want to have interesting things to remember, and will always be sure to write significant places and events down. But because I don’t keep the kind of diary where I log my innermost thoughts and by which I can chart the development of my character, and instead keep a books full of schedules and to-do lists, most of my ‘memories’ will be of appointments, shopping lists and train booking reference numbers.

Even without the wealth of interesting anecdotes to look back on and remember the days gone by, I still keep these diaries because I am helpless without them. I have a memory like a sieve so if I want to get anything done I have to write it down. But perhaps even more than the necessity of keeping these diaries for the sake of productivity, I keep these diaries because I love making the covers. I choose not to buy the trendy moleskin books that boast an air of literary accomplishment, but instead opt for cheap primary school jotters that allow maximum creative scope. Now you might think that covering a child’s jotter would be the easiest thing in the world, but what I have learned throughout my extensive jotter-covering experience, is that if you want to create a diary of utmost quality, there are rules that must be followed and phases of completion that must each be concluded in order to provide structural and aesthetic integrity to the finished article. I have made 35 to 40 of these books in my ‘career’ and have always striven towards each outdoing the last.

The actual imagery used to cover the diary is of marginal concern in comparison to the quality of the assembly of the structure. Over the years I have honed the art of diary making. I have gradually incorporated ideas that were initially tagged on as an afterthought, hidden structural devices in the very fabric of the book, and have finished the product with an ever keener eye for quality, parallel lines and perfect right angles.

But let me not detract from how important it is for me to continually out-do myself on aesthetics, as well as on structure. Where my first diary featured a cover made from a purple striped paper bag adorned with a postcard of Donegal, my most recent diary involved the gluing of 210 individual 2nd class stamps to the front cover in nice neat rows. In the past it was easy; I just had to find a single sheet of paper to use as a cover that was slightly more bizarre than the last.

Diary covers of old have included music manuscripts, pages from the Oxford English dictionary, movie posters, my Italian lecture notes, property listings from an Edinburgh newspaper dated 1952, and the piece of crepe paper that my Dunlop Green Flash shoes came wrapped in.

But now, with the introduction of over 200 individual covering elements coming together in unison, the bar has certainly been raised! Some might say that I am a little bit OCD when it comes to my diary making. I can’t really argue with that, in fact I would probably agree. I love trying to make a more interesting and accomplished finished article. This most recent idea using stamps will be hard to trump, but I look forward to the challenge of trying.



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4 responses to “Diary genius

  1. I am surprised that being such a hoarder, you are so neat and tidy with it! That a good combination, I wish I could say the same for myself. I do agree the 2nd class stamp cover outwits the others, it will be hard to trump. Have you tried some more robust materials such as beating flat the lid of a vintage tin or how about the lovely thin printed wooden panels on the side of an orange crate?

    • Good suggestions Jenny, thanks. I’d never considered any material other than paper. I especially like the idea of using a tin lid beaten flat. It would require a little more thought when it came to assembly, but I am up for the challenge! I think I’ll do one more with stamps before moving on though. The idea still has too much still to offer .

  2. Gem

    Ali.. Thanks for a great post. I too have a stash of diaries, that I wonder if I will ever read.. I have, however ceased the habit a number of years ago, and I blame the IT age. If I could print and keep all my text messages I would though! I’ve always been a fan of the autumn leaf for decoration, and recall a string curtain I made out of them for a room at uni! Could be a technical challenge, but would make a cool cover?

  3. I really loved this.
    Being a diarist myself I enjoyed reading your account of your creativity! Also loved your webpage Alisdair, that photo is pure genius .
    It’s fantastic how the piece of stone is caught flying away from the chisel.
    I must confess however, it’s Moleskine and no other diary for me.
    When I first met Gemma ( I nursed for her a few years ago) her opening sentence to me was * Ooh, you have a Moleskine! * :))
    I even use one as my clinical diary.
    What does it for me is the way the Moleskine opens flat when I’m writing in it, the asthetic beauty of the the leather cover, yep; I’m a sucker for those babies.
    I take a city one to every major city we visit.
    Ah memories, who can live without them?
    I’m going to ( hopefully ) direct a little traffic Gemma’s way via my own blog today.
    Off to write about it now.
    You can find my link,
    I write under the name of Anna, I’m shy about writing !
    Gemma knows me as Neetes. :))

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