What I learned from my great-grandfather’s diaries.
My great-grandfather, Jacob Keller (1872-1956), wrote every week in his diary. He was a well-to-do farmer near Dordrecht, The Netherlands. I transcribed some of his writings and published it online in a blog (in Dutch). Most of his diary entries are logging the weather and about what work he and his workers accomplished over the week. It was a tool for managing his farm, but he also had aspirations to record for future generations about the way he runs his farm and how it was done in the past. Very rarely he wrote about his personal worries and feelings. For example when he wrote a very beautifully obituary about his dog who passed away in 1914. I admire his style of writing. I suppose he loved poetry, because sometimes he cites poets in his diaries.
I don’t think he ever attended a creative writing class, because this kind of teaching didn’t exist in the village where he lived in that time. So I conclude he mainly improved his writing by writing every week, by reading other writers and by being interested in writing appealing prose. So what I learned from his diaries is that by writing regularly and having a structure (one evening a week over more than 50 years), you improve the writing. I don’t want to deny that it is inspiring, useful and fun to attend classes or conversations with fellow artists. But a large part of the learning is done by doing. This is almost the same as what Danny Gregory preaches: learn drawing by doing it. (After learning some simple basic stuff, he summarizes the book ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’ in less than 20 pages.)
Besides that my great-grandfather was a good writer, he also was a succesful farmer. I suppose he was, because of his weekly reflections in his diaries.
The drawing above does not have any connection with the story. Or maybe it does? It is both about the influence of a dead person. The above mask is used by the Asmat when a member of their tribe is murdered. One of his fellow tribesmen will dance with this mask whole night long, representing the deceased. Through this mask communication with the deceased is possible. I did draw it in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam (The Royal Tropical Institute).
This is a fragment of my great-grandfather’s writing in one of his diaries