Today is National Dear Diary Day.
And nobody kept a diary quite like Robert Shields, who for decades chronicled just about every little thing that happened in his life.
Shields grew up in Indiana and eventually became a preacher and later a high school teacher.
But you could argue his true life’s work was his diary, which he started in 1972 because, well even he wasn’t sure why.
He once said “we are driven by compulsions we don’t know.”
And this was quite a compulsion.
Shields spent about four hours a day writing down the details of his day.
All of them.
He would write out when he woke up, what he ate, when he went to the bathroom and what he wore.
He would get himself out of bed every couple hours so that he could document his dreams.
And a great deal of the diary was him writing about how he was writing in his diary.
When he bought stuff, he’d add the product stickers to the diary, and he even put in a sample of his hair, because why not.
He limited his errands and trips away from home because the more he was away, the more work piled up for his diary project.
He typed and typed and typed, and when a stroke left him unable to type, he dictated diary entries to his wife for a time.
At the end of his life, at age 89, he had left a diary of 37.5 million words, 91 boxes worth of papers.
He donated all of them to Washington State University in 1999, but he specified that no one could read the diary or even count the words for 50 years.
So if you want to know what Robert Shields was eating on New Year’s Day 1988, you’ll have to wait another couple decades.
Starting today in Warrens, Wisconsin, it’s the Warrens Cranberry Festival.
There’s a parade, music, food and arts and crafts.
And there’s a public cranberry harvest, in case you’d like to try your hand at gathering up the berries yourself.
Robert Shields, Wordy Diarist, Dies at 89 (The New York Times)