The World’s Longest Diary

For 20 years, Robert Shields, of Dayton, Washington, kept a written record of absolutely everything that happened to him, day and night. For no less than 4 hours a day, Shields holed himself up in the small office in his home, turned on his stereo, and typed. His diary — at 35 million words — is believed to be the world’s longest diary. Faithful to journaling, Shields believed that discontinuing his diary would be like “turning off my life.” He slept for only 2 hours at a time so he could describe his dreams. His diary was filled with mundane things from how he changed a light bulb to what he fixed for lunch. Every aspect of his daily life was entered into his diary. In 1997, Shields had a stroke that disabled him. He tried to continue the diary by having his wife write what he told her, but she lacked the interest and energy to continue and stopped shortly afterward. Shields’ dairy filled 91 boxes, which he donated to Washington State University. The following is an excerpt from Shields’ diary, showing just how simple his entries really were:
April 18, 1994
6:30–6:35: "I put in the oven two Stouffer's macaroni and cheese at 350°."
6:35–6:50: "I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary."
6.50–7.30: "I ate the Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and Cornelia ate the other one. Grace decided she didn't want one."
7.30–7.35: "We changed the light over the back stoop since the bulb had burnt out."