The Desire To Document And Collect

Michelle Mac
5 min readMar 8, 2023

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The desire to document and collect must be something in our nature as humans.

I recently watched the Pamela Anderson documentary on Netflix and was struck by everything she kept over the years. Every diary, scrap of paper, videotape, piece of clothing, and shoes (lots of shoes). Every memory was saved and stored away in plastic boxes which she delved through during the filming.

I’ve also been reading a lot of Austin Kleon’s work recently. He keeps all his diaries on a shelf in his office. When he’s stuck for inspiration or what to write, he opens an old diary to a random page and starts reading.

The days stack up — Austin Kleon

Austin also wrote a piece about comedians like Joan Rivers keeping all the jokes they’d written in big filing cabinets to use as a reference. If you’ve ever read How To Take Smart Notes the filing cabinets will likely remind you a lot of the Zettelkasten system.

The urge to document has always been strong in me too. I used to keep diaries from a young age and write in them every day.

Unfortunately, in my case, I never kept any of them.

I suppose the reason is I felt like they weren’t good or weren’t important enough. Most of my documentation included who I talked to at school that day, what I was watching on TV, and what fun games we were playing in the nearby park. Boring stuff to my current self.

Now that I’ve restarted a daily journal practice I wonder if I’ll face the same decision when I’ve filled up my current journal. Is any of this work holding on to or should I throw this away?

As I flick through my Pink Leuchtterm 1917 Bujo (from the time I got really into bullet journaling), I realize it’s a time capsule from the time of the height of the pandemic.

My former bullet journal, now regular journal/log

What I was feeling, what I was doing each day, who I was in contact with, as well as various milestones we faced including the period of time when we weren’t allowed to travel further than 5kms from our…

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Michelle Mac

The *heavily edited* ramblings of a technical writer & frontend dev. I write about creativity, design, and productivity. Start here: https://heymichellemac.com/