Day One / Blog

The Way I Journal: John Carey

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[Day One] Who are you and what do you do?

[John] My name is John Carey and what I do can be a bit unpredictable. To some, I am a live audio engineer. Audio engineering is an industry I grew up around and takes up most of my time. To many others, I am a photographer and writer who has been sharing online since somewhere around ’99.

Currently, I am best known for my work on fiftyfootshadows.net, a site dedicated to sharing my photography along with stories, commentary on the world of photography, and a bit of great music for good measure. It’s a lifestyle blog at its heart, but it is slowly evolving into more as time goes on and I explore new ideas. It is most widely noted for the wallpapers I share, often inside posts using my photography as source material and cropping them for desktops and iOS devices.

I also post daily on a photo diary of sorts. It was started as a means to get away from using Instagram so I could share day-to-day photography. It can be found at yesterdaywasonly.net.

When and why did you start journaling?

I have kept journals on-and-off since high school actually. Back then I would use blank books which I often failed to fill up before moving on to new ones. I have always enjoyed writing both creatively and as a means to record parts of my life as they happen—sometimes a modest photograph is not always worth a thousand words. Memories have a funny way of playing tricks on me and journal entries give me a unique perspective on my past.

What is your journaling routine?

My life as an audio engineer leaves my life and freetime fairly unpredictable. My work hours are far from your average 9-5. One day I may have a 5 AM call and others I am up till 3 AM working late at a local music venue. Because of this, I take what time I can get and do my best to cram writing into the breaks between other tasks at hand. While this does leave some entries a little messy, I still find myself able to revisit these ideas later, if they end up being worth revisiting.

There are, of course, slow days and I often take advantage of the calm by letting myself revisit ideas jotted down on busier days and expanding ideas into articles or more coherent statements. Some of my best work comes when an idea strikes me like a flaming arrow and I can’t help but push other things aside to write it all out of my mind. I typically find myself writing until I feel I have wrung every last word out of my head and leave the result to edit later.

Do you focus on longform writing or capturing small memories of life?

As I mentioned above. I often take whatever time I can get when it comes to writing, so a large percentage of my personal writing starts—and sometimes ends—at these shorter statements. My writing is at times less about personal stories such as “I at the BEST apple a few minutes ago” and more observational writing about the world around me. A lot of the time I try to simply get down those “ah ha!” type observations before they manage to slip out of my mind forever.

Do you have a favorite spot you like to journal from?

I enjoy writing in places that give me the least amount of familiarity. Places where I can feel a little lost within. Coffee shops, hotel rooms, park benches, or anywhere that surrounds me either with unfamiliar people or an unfamiliar place. Ideas always flow more naturally when I don’t have the comforts of home surrounding me. I think this stems from my addiction to travel and the emotional high that comes with being lost somewhere where no one knows who I am or why I am there. It gives my mind undisturbed freedom to be anything it wants to be and really get lost in what it is trying to communicate in the written form.

What was your first entry in Day One?

While I had used earlier versions of Day One in the past, it was not until its recent(ish) overhaul that Day One really started to settle into my writing routine. I decided to switch from keeping a blank book around to using Day One when my wife and I went on our honeymoon in Bali after getting married in Seoul. This was back in April 2012. Here is an unedited clip from that first entry:

“As we are taken away by cab I can’t help but remember being with YoungDoo In a hired car on the way to the Taj in India then to New Delhi once again before she left. So many similarities among smell, chaotic roads, people and overall emotion. I’m curious to see how far that feeling extends as we dive deeper into our short stay here…”

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How many entries do you have in your journal?

At the moment it’s around 250, but quickly growing these days because I have moved to using it more regularly for quick notes and ideas that I once used a note-taking app on my iPhone for. I have finally started tagging entries with a series of simple tags to help me organize the things I write. It has been great because I no longer need to export and import text from other applications to get started with a longer-form version of an idea, I just bump down a couple of lines and go to town fleshing out the rest of the topic at hand.

What is your favorite, or most used Day One feature?

My favorite thing about Day One is the way it stays out of my way, yet still manages to keep everything so perfectly organized. I have piles of documents in folders on my laptop from old writings in other apps that I always dread digging through. So many ideas and writings would end up getting forgotten or lost over time. With Day One, everything is in one place where I can easily browse through, and because of this, I find myself being a lot more productive not having to waste time fiddling with file management.

Also, it’s gorgeous. The simplicity of its design, approach, and aesthetic gives me a wide set of tools and information while staying out of my way when I don’t need it. I really love the welcoming, worry-free writing environment it creates.

Do you write mostly on the iPhone, iPad, or the Mac?

I am most comfortable on my MacBook these days and it is where I do most of my longer writing and editing, but I love the single-task approach of the iPad for writing. I have a feeling that, once I inevitably pick up an iPad mini this year to replace my aging iPad 2, I will revisit writing more on the iPad with an external keyboard.

I can’t count how many times I have pulled out my iPhone to write in Day One. It’s proven to be invaluable as a means to lay out ideas quickly and you will often find me sneaking it out while standing behind a mixing console or lying in bed late at night with that one golden idea that I just have to get down.

The fact that all of my writing is anywhere I need it, at any time, on all of my devices, has truly spoiled me.

Do you follow any journal organization rules?

I love the idea of scheduled times to sit down and reflect on life but it’s too hard for me to afford the luxury of staying organized with the process. When I write I more often than not am writing to preserve ideas and thoughts as they strike me. For me, inspiration comes from all sorts of unexpected places, so I really have no idea when the need may strike.

Have you ever relied on Day One for something unexpected, or used it to recall details about a specific event or date?

Yes, quite often actually. Because I am able to jump back to a date or time period and quickly browse through entries, I am often discovering bits of wisdom that may have otherwise gone forgotten. Being able to reference past writing easily is starting to become more and more valuable to me as I start to work on developing my style as a writer.

I see that in your site fiftyfootshadows.net you usually couple gorgeous photography to your posts. Is that something you also often do with your personal entries in Day One?

When this feature was added I really loved the idea and I have been using it more and more lately. When I sit down to write about a photograph for a post on 50ft it’s great to be able to have it right there with the writing at its source. It feels akin to pasting a polaroid into an old hardback paper journal. I love that.

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For our readers who are curious about what Mr. Carey writes in his journals, here are some of his public entries on fiftyfootshadows that he remembers using Day One to write, or at least where the ideas started to take shape:

About the Author

Tulio Jarocki is a student, design aficionado, and journaling enthusiast. When he is not writing about the rewards of journaling for Day One, he can be seen drinking coffee, running, or just out and about in Boston.