Robert Shields, Diarist

I had a wee chat with Sean Hall (philosopher/designer/semiotician/madman) the other day about my work, and in particular about the stuff I’ve been doing like Google day, outsourcing decisions to the internet etc. It was a conversation high on tangents and low on direction, but gave me a few interesting new sources.

One of which, you may be pleased to know, I am going to talk about here.

He told me about this guy called Robert Shields, a famous diarist who wrote a new diary entry every five minutes of his life. Between the years of 1972 and 1997, he wrote over 35 million words of the most minute and mundane details of his day to day activites. He would only sleep for two hours at a time so that he could write about his dreams.

Insane, yes, but I cant help but admire his mighty effort.

I like the ridiculous level of detail with which he writes about the things most of us do without thinking. From the few excerpts I’ve read, he’s a quite a funny writer too. Here’s an excerpt from July 23rd, 1993:

7 am: I cleaned out the tub and scraped my feet with my fingernails to remove layers of dead skin.
7.05 am: Passed a large, firm stool, and a pint of urine. Used five sheets of paper.

Apparently he had three dozen expressions for the act of urination. The eskimos of urban legend with their myriad names for snow don’t even come close to that.

I feel like this somehow relates to what I’ve been doing, but now quite sure how. I guess the things that some people write on Twitter have much of the same banality, if not the anality of Shield’s diary entries.

Yes, anality is a new word. Feel free to use it.

So I think I’ll just try doing a Robert Shields-esque exercise tomorrow, but instead of typewrite everything, put it all on twitter. I’ll probably lose all of my followers, but something might come out of it.

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One response to “Robert Shields, Diarist

  1. Pingback: Twittering Incessantly | OF MY OWN ACCORD

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