Writing and well-being for busy people

Why have people written diaries, now and in the past? Can private diary writing help promote well-being? Is it time to ‘reimagine’ the diary for the contemporary era in an era where people publicly share life-stories on social media?

This Ideas Exchange seeks to explore the different reasons people give for keeping diaries and the impediments that sometimes prevent diary-writing, particularly amongst professional people who often say they do not have the time. They want to investigate what encourages or dissuades diary-writing in professions that have a high level of inter-personal interaction or retention issues, such as teachers or NHS staff. Could diary-writing help improve well-being in these settings? They will also explore if the form of the diary itself can help encourage ‘healthy’ self-reflection. Is it time to reimagine the diary for the twenty-first century?  

What is being created?

Together the team will create partnerships and connections that will be essential in creating a larger coproduced and interdisciplinary project to reimagine the diary. They will have meetings with prospective external partners to develop ideas and to devise a series of events that will underpin future project proposals. These meetings will include  

  • An ideas session with potential creative partners,  
  • Connecting with professional groups who might benefit from diary writing to discuss project involvement, 
  •  Discussing the ethical implications involved in taking this research further. 
  • Meeting with University of Bristol Theatre Collection and Special Collections to discuss and plan events working exploring the diaries within the archives

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Dr Lucy Kelly (Education) is a tutor on the PGCE English programme and is interested in student teacher wellbeing, and teacher wellbeing more generally. She has just submitted an article looking at the relationship between professional women’s private writing, selfhood and wellbeing, and how this has changed in the digital age. 
  • Dr Grace Huxford (History) has researched and taught the longer history of ‘life-writing’ (including letters, diaries and oral histories) and changing ideas of selfhood.  

What's next?

The team will apply for Brigstow Experimental Partnership Seedcorn funding with a larger project bid . This bid will be built around a series of events that cumulatively help answer broader research questions. It will be built around three distinct phases: Diary-keeping; Reflection on diary writing; and Re-imagining the diary.

Read about the follow on Experimental Partnership “Reimagining the Diary: Writing and wellbeing for busy people”

“Co-production has helped me to see the potential of my research beyond disciplinary boundaries and standard academic practices and dissemination methods. Working in a co-produced way helped me to see the potential of my research beyond typical disciplinary boundaries and standard academic practices and outputs. It has helped me to think more about co-production from the earliest stages of research design.” Grace Huxford