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Thread: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

  1. #21
    Senior Member AzJon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    If historical reference is any guide, I could keep an immaculate written record of my life and the most historically interesting/important things would still be my grocery lists.

    Journals don't give us as much insight into an age or time as it does insight solely into the author. While it might be interesting to your future progeny, "Great-great-great-great Grandpa AzJon stared into the pointless void again" isn't really a thrilling read. Dates, places, prices, and inventories are what compose the vast majority of historically relevant first hand accounts. So, in that respect a "to do" style journal would probably be more historically "significant" than a "my thoughts on the page" account.

    If you want to be extra dramatic about it, you can burn your journals on the 15th of February, i.e. the Roman feast of purification. From Etymonline:

    "late 14c., ultimately from Latin februarius mensis "month of purification," from februare "to purify," from februa "purifications, expiatory rites" (plural of februum "means of purification, expiatory offerings"), which is of uncertain origin, said to be a Sabine word. De Vaan says from Proto-Italic *f(w)esro-, from a PIE word meaning "the smoking" or "the burning" (thus possibly connected with fume (n.)). The sense then could be either purification by smoke or a burnt offering."

    Seems reasonable to offer your journals to the pen gods.

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    Senior Member FredRydr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Imagine if Anne Frank's journal had been burned before her father found it.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Imagine if Anne Frank's journal had been burned before her father found it.
    Or Anais Nin's diaries, for that matter.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Imagine if Anne Frank's journal had been burned before her father found it.
    Or Anais Nin's diaries, for that matter.
    Or Henry Jones Senior's, for that matter.

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Historians can look to themselves. My journals are not for them and their statistical analyses of my times. When our family swarms here during some of the holidays, a couple of nieces and nephews (some removed a generation or two) ask to read in my journals. They sit in a corner for hours and read. I see them sometimes smiling, sometimes serious. They read about their great grandfather taking a chew of tobacco out of his mouth and laying it up on a window sill to be further enjoyed later. They read about the swimmin' hole down at the creek. If I can write well enough to keep their attention, historians can go pound salt.
    Written on a real computer and real keyboard with capital letters, punctuation, and everything.

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  9. #26
    Senior Member AzJon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    The notion of intentionally cataloguing one's life for future progeny strikes me as wrong. Anne Frank and Anais Nin didn't write for other people (though, I suppose Anais did, eventually), they wrote as an outlet for their experiences and emotions with the intention that they would never be seen by someone else. Indeed, Anne's father initially thought that Anne's diary should never be read by anyone, not even himself.

    To perhaps clarify and bring it around to the original question: I do not write in a journal for anyone but myself. Therefore, I would wish them destroyed. They exist for my own weeding through times, good and bad, and serve as a reminder of things I did that I wouldn't actively remember otherwise.

    A question asked, an answer given.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    As an aside to the discussion, I just came across the following article that might be of interest:

    Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    As an aside to the discussion, I just came across the following article that might be of interest:

    Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary
    After reading this, I need to either step up the content on my own journals or definitely burn them!
    "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life"?—Mary Oliver

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    Senior Member AzJon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    As an aside to the discussion, I just came across the following article that might be of interest:

    Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary
    precisely to my point from the first line. "'You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,' Madeleine L’Engle..."

    and further to that point: "Indeed, if there is one thing I’ve learned about diaries, both by having read tens of thousands of pages of artists’ and writers’ journals and by having frequently revisited my own from the distance of time, is that nothing written in a diary is to be taken as the diarist’s personal dogma"

    When we write with the intention of someone else reading what we write later on, are we really telling the truth of that moment or do we smooth over the rough edges for a yet unknown reader?

  14. #30
    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by AzJon View Post
    precisely to my point from the first line. "'You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,' Madeleine L’Engle..."

    and further to that point: "Indeed, if there is one thing I’ve learned about diaries, both by having read tens of thousands of pages of artists’ and writers’ journals and by having frequently revisited my own from the distance of time, is that nothing written in a diary is to be taken as the diarist’s personal dogma"

    When we write with the intention of someone else reading what we write later on, are we really telling the truth of that moment or do we smooth over the rough edges for a yet unknown reader?
    I certainly would never take issue with your own personal wishes in all of this, nor anyone else's. I rarely 'journal' or diary-down my own thoughts and don't have a strong feeling as to how I would choose them to be dealt with. That said, I think there are windows into a persona that open during unguarded moments. I believe there is a strata of these writings that fall somewhere between intentionally private and overtly written-to-be-read. In those writings we might very well not only catch insights into another life but into our own.
    Last edited by Jon Szanto; May 12th, 2018 at 07:59 PM.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Well, this thread has certainly become thought provoking for me. Thank you for the links to other's thoughts about it. I think I may change up my approach to writing in my daily diary/journal. Pondering all of this for the past few days I recall reading my grandmother's diaries when I was younger. She started keeping them around 1940 when they bought their first ranch ground in Southeastern Colorado. Early on she recorded details like numbers of calves branded or sheep sheared, sale prices, major purchases and whatnot. As they became more established in business and acquired modern conveniences like running water and electricity, she wrote more about the day to day doings on the ranch and in life like interactions with neighbors and friends and starting in 1961, recorded information about grandkids being born and the like. She always kept those page a day leather bound books on a shelf and anyone could read them. She actually used them to help her remember some details when she wrote out a 40 or 50 page history of her and Grandpa's lives for a pioneer history event around 1976 or so.

    Thanks for helping me focus a bit more. Maybe I'll quit writing so willy nilly in whatever books I find in my overflowing stash of notebooks and get a little more focused on recording the actual events of my life...even that intensely personal stuff that impacts who I am as a man, husband, father and teacher.

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    Senior Member myu's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by pajaro View Post
    I was starting to write about my life in my twenties. After about twenty pages I realized how much trouble the revelation of some things could cause, because of the revelation of some secrets not just mine, and some things that are mine alone to keep. I pulled the pages out and destroyed them. I write no more journals. I truly doubt that anyone would believe that any of this stuff could have happened to anyone anyway. I now think it is my duty to keep the crosses I bear to myself and not bother my family and others with them.
    Sounds intriguing. You should re-write and use pseudonyms to protect identities!

    I have a couple of "journals". I put that in quotes because they're not regular logs of any kind. I have one where I've torn pages out many times. I'd written about plans and things I wanted to do, then later on saw such folly and failure, I didn't want to be reminded of it. I actually lost track of the book, as I think it's stowed in a box somewhere. I kept it for sentimental reasons as I'd written about some previous relationships, but at this point I'm not feeling that sentiment any longer and would just assume I should destroy it (I will when I finally find it).

    One notebook is supposed to be used for recording positive things and successes. Another is for really anything -- random thoughts, ranting, etc. I'm unable to be consistent and I write notes to myself in attempts to help myself achieve it. But the book has developed a long trail of "new beginnings" and "failed execution" over and over again. And each time I start a new one, I feel the pain of past failure. It doesn't motivate me. It more than likely just seeds the repetition. I don't want anyone to ever read all this crap. I'll more than likely destroy the rant book and keep the positive one, that captures more about what I want than about what I am. Pretty sad, isn't it.

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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fermata View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Imagine if Anne Frank's journal had been burned before her father found it.
    Or Anais Nin's diaries, for that matter.
    Or Henry Jones Senior's, for that matter.
    Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnson come to mind...

  21. #34
    Senior Member KKay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    When I was a kid, I had a diary or two. I have not thought too hard about doing it again until recently. I have all kinds of different journals around here that I use. Hopefully one I am working on will not be thrown away. I will call it a commonplace journal, so you can have an idea on what it may contain. I have thought about telling my life story for my kids and future grandkids to read. I have thought about journaling current events, and my thoughts. I have a new journal that is waiting for me to make up my mind, on how I will use it. So far I have not made a firm decision. I would not write very personal things in a journal, that I wouldn't want someone to read in my family. I prefer to use cursive most of the time, and that could be a problem in the future. If people cannot read it, it would've been a waste of time.

    To answer the second question, no I would not burn it. I will leave that up to my kids to decide.

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    While still not journalling in the sense that I understand it, I have now started my own recipe book with a spare pad I had lurking in the cupboard. I'll be using it to record my own favourites, and recipes that I modified from others to reflect ingredients that I am actually likely to buy (unlike most of the recipe books I've bought).

    I don't mind that one being found/inherited by others.

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    Quote Originally Posted by KKay View Post
    . . . I prefer to use cursive most of the time, and that could be a problem in the future. If people cannot read it, it would've been a waste of time.
    Don't worry about people being able to read cursive. If the text is written in a language the reader knows, he/she can figure it out in about a half hour. If you already know the German language, reading blackletter is not difficult if you apply yourself. If someone is not motivated to figure out your chicken scratchin', the journal is wasted on him/her anyway.
    Written on a real computer and real keyboard with capital letters, punctuation, and everything.

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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    I journal to record the my daily progress on the novels I write. It helps me clear my mind at the end of the day. I don't think they would be very interesting to anybody else or even for me to read again later.

    Maybe if I am a famous author some day some fan would pay good money for a limited glimpse into the mind of an author, but I don't expect to be famous, just hope to make some money doing something I enjoy. I expect they will hit the recycle bin at some point....

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    Senior Member suzy01's Avatar
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    Default Re: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    I don't journal regularly, I have started on many occasions but I think they're all lost in the loft since we moved years ago. If I ever found them I might burn them. I'm trying to keep a daily record but it's on my phone so doesn't count sometimes I've art journalled but couldn't really get the hang of it as opposed to a general sketchbook. I have a 100 year diary I'd like to fill in but keep not getting around to. It's pretty cool, has a double page for each season and a few additional pages per year for photos and lists. It's a bit bulky so I don't take it out much though. I have a second one I bought when my daughter was born and thought I could fill it for her until she is old enough but I've only done about 6m worth and she's now 3yrs I find I cannot really recall well the last three months to fill it which is a sad state for my brain to be in.

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