Last July, on my wife Kimmie’s birthday, The Kids (as we refer to Kimmie’s daughter Robin and Robin’s husband Mike) gave her a really thoughtful present: an attractive paperback book entitled One Question a Day: My Life So Far, published by Castle Point Books. It’s a daily journal that prompts you to write about your life by asking you a question each day: 365 questions on 365 pages.
Kimmie jumped into the task of writing in her new journal, dutifully answering one question a day, or sometimes more than that. I felt a bit envious; I really liked the idea of this journal. I have long tried to practice lifewriting in different ways, and this approach, using specific questions as writing prompts, seemed excellent as a way to open the floodgates—or anyway the eyedropper. I wanted my own One Question a Day journal!
The Kids had found the book at a store on Granville Island called Paper-Ya. We all went over there the next Sunday, braving the milling crowds of the site in Vancouver’s False Creek. Lots of nice (high-end) paper products—but no second copy of the book. We came away disappointed.
I decided that I wouldn’t be deterred by the lack of my own copy; I got myself a sheaf of paper and plunged in. I would write a parallel, loose-leaf journal of my own. In some ways this was even better, for Kimmie was already running into trouble with the space limit of a single page—really only about 60% of a page—in which to answer each question. For me the sky was the limit. I plunged in, determined to answer all the questions and thus arrive at a more or less comprehensive view of my life to date.
Are you curious? Here’s Question 1:
Q 1: What is your birth date? Describe what you know about the day you were born.
And here is what I wrote on my first sheet of ruled loose-leaf:
A: I was born on January 24, 1959—my father’s 25th birthday—at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver’s West End, at 11:32 p.m. I entered the world as a breech birth, which I believe may have given me the “healing touch.” It was the depth of winter and the full moon will have been high in the sky—the most elevated planet.
St. Paul’s was still run by strict and scrupulous Catholic nuns, and my parents had been married only about a week. They lived in a cheap ground-floor apartment on Denman Street, and my first crib would be a cardboard box kept in the top drawer of a chest of drawers.
The #1 song on Billboard‘s Hot 100 that week was “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters.
There, I was off to a start. Only 364 questions to go!
Kimmie discovered that she didn’t really like writing about her life. Perhaps too many painful childhood memories. So she has bogged down somewhere around question 81. I remain enthusiastic, but I have not been able to keep up the one-question-a-day pace. Nonetheless, I have made it as far as question 120 (still in high school), and I intend to get through the whole thing. Why not? Answering questions is easy compared with coming up with your own ideas.