Reimagining the Diary: Writing and well-being for busy people

Can diary writing improve wellbeing? Is it time to "reimagine" the diary? Are there ways for busy people to engage in diary writing? This project looks at the past, present and future of diary writing in relation to wellbeing. It explores ethical considerations, barriers and creative formats.

The research team will tackle the topic of diary writing through 3 strands: past, present and future.

The research project will use excerpts from Mass Observation diaries to explore why people kept diaries in the past and different ways they were written. The present strand will work with busy professionals (teachers) to investigate what encourages or dissuades diary writing.

This strand will then become the future strand, which will work with the creative media company ‘Stand and Stare’ to reimagine the diary for busy professionals – in this case teachers – and produce a diary toolkit that will assist in positive teacher wellbeing.

For more insight into the process read this blog by a teacher participant about the launch workshop for Reimagine the Diary: Blog: Why I Love Reimagine the Diary 

This Experimental Partnership emerged from the 2018 Ideas Exchange “Reimagining the Diary: Writing and well-being for busy people”.

What is being created?

This project will create a prototype toolkit for teachers interested in using diaries to manage their own wellbeing. The diary is designed around three stages that you complete each day: transition, activity, reflect.

The team will also co-write a journal article summarising their findings.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Dr Lucy Kelly (Education) will lead the “present” strand of this project. Lucy will work closely with local primary and secondary school teachers through workshops and focus groups.
  • Dr Grace Huxford (History) will explore the history of diaries and examine the archival holdings of the Theatre Collection and Bristol Special Collections.
  • Dr Catherine Kelly (Law) will reflect on the future of diary writing with participant teachers and ‘Stand + Stare’. Catherine will explore ethical implications and legal considerations of keeping a diary in the journal article.
  • Interactive design studio and theatre makers Stand + Stare will work creatively to reimagine the diary format with participants.

What's next?

The research team cowrote a policy briefing which you can read here: Policy Briefing: Diary Toolkit should be rolled out in schools to support teacher wellbeing.

They intend to apply for further funding to continue this project. The researchers would like to use this pilot study to create a working hypothesis. They would like to transfer this learning to new groups who are under a great deal of professional stress, e.g. NHS workers.

Together Lucy, Grace and Catherine cowrote a journal article summarising their findings : ‘In Our Daily Struggles’: Lucy Kelly, Grace Huxford & Catherine Kelly (2020) ‘In Our Daily Struggles’: Diaries as a Tool for Teacher Well-being,

Find below an article by Lucy Kelly authored at the end of the research project “Reclaiming teacher wellbeing through reflective diary-writing” or listen to her podcast on The Well Teacher Podcast  “Can reflective diary entries be the key to solving teacher retention and wellbeing?”

Reclaiming teacher wellbeing through reflective diary-writing


“This has been the first co-produced research project that I have been involved in and I have thoroughly enjoyed it! I have learnt so much from working with colleagues within the University, as well as outside partners. It has made me think about diary writing and wellbeing in a new way and I am excited about the project’s next steps. As well as developing my research skills, I have also developed skills around leading a project, including managing a budget. This experience has helped me to feel a lot more confident about applying for future funding and leading other research projects.”  Lucy Kelly

“The gentleness and thoughtfulness of the team and their work together was wonderful. It has been so great to see a project that started as an ideas exchange growing into the seedcorn project.” Brigstow

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