In a recent WFoD email chain Tomek, our resident history buff and research guy, said that these are interesting times in which to journal our everyday lives. He suggested that since we’re writers, we might as well write and record how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our own lives. From yesterday’s post, I see that Tomek will be sharing his “plague” writings through the blog.
Journaling has already been on my mind in recent weeks because I just finished reading Nella Last’s War, a published account of an English woman’s experiences during WW2 written for Mass-Observation. Mass-Observation (M.O.) was conceived in 1937 as a social research project that aimed to record the daily lives and feelings of British citizens. These citizens were invited to answer questionnaires or keep their own M.O. Diaries which would then be collected for the project’s archives.
Mass-Observation began in a very interesting time, right on the cusp of WW2. When M.O. sent out the call for volunteer diarists, war was imminent and for the next 5 years people recorded the social, economic, cultural, and political changes it brought. It’s a treasure trove for historians.
Nella Last was a housewife and mother who had never kept a diary, but had always wanted to write. M.O. provided her a reason to write and she kept up her diary for most of the rest of her life. She provides exactly what M.O. was set up to record, an honest account of someone’s daily life in Britain. She records the bombings in her town near an important shipyard, her work in the Women’s Voluntary Service, her tricks for stretching rationed food and supplies, and the increasing hopelessness she observed in herself and her neighbors.
In some ways she was journaling through end times, but she could also see the beginning of new times ahead. She observed young people’s new ways of thinking about marriage and social expectations and opportunities for women that they had not previously been given.
I rarely try to keep a journal or record my daily life. The fantasies and adventures I create in my head are much more interesting to write down than my average life. However, in the spirit of Nella Last and per Tomek’s suggestion I’ve started my own Single Observation Diary. I tried to get my sister in on this, but she’s even more inconsistent than I am. For now I don’t plan to blog it, and it will not be going into an archive. It will remain on my computer for my own self-reflection.