Between 1972 and 1996, Robert Shields, a former minister and English teacher based in Spokane, Washington, kept a typewritten diary of every minute of his life. “The entire day is accounted for,” according to Shields—and it is, including visits to the bathroom, the weight of the daily newspaper, and every piece of junk mail. Detritus like meat labels, grocery store receipts, and nose hairs, are also included. Sleeping no more than two hours at a time so that he could record his dreams, Shields spent an average of four hours a day at his typewriter. When he gave the diary to the Manuscript Archive of Washington State University for preservation in 1999-2000, it was 37.5 million words stored in 81 cardboard boxes.