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Thread: Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

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    Default Journals: To Burn or Not to Burn?

    I've been thinking about this after reading another thread here. Now I have two questions:

    1) If you journal, why do you journal, to what purpose?

    2) To those that journal, will you leave them for others to read after you die, or will you burn them?

    I'm still considering my answer to the second question; what about you?
    "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life"?—Mary Oliver

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

    Great topic!

    I'm not sure I can separate the two reasons in such a black and white fashion, though others may.

    There can be many reasons for journaling. I suppose most people see the term 'journaling' as alternative label for being a diarist, but it doesn't have to be. If one was of a whimsical outlook then a journal of the life of an imaginary character could be a fun exercise. Even writing a diary doesn't necessarily have to be personally revealing - it could be a time account of events in a particular place, seen through a particular lens perhaps.

    What I'm getting at is that, at leat for me and sure for lots of others, journaling can be a creative medium rather than simply a record. And of course it can be both. I journal because I am interested in making observations, noting changes in mine and other's perspectives, historical reasons, interesting means of expression (words, formats, scripts etc.) and so on. I don't have a set theme for my journal, though now that I have written this post I may consider being more thematic.


    As for who may read them when I die? Well, think of the Voynich manuscript. I like to imagine that people in the future, if they ever expressed an interest in reading my journals, would get some of it and be puzzled by the rest. If the journals get trashed ... well, who am I to place any measure of value on them?

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

    As I said in the other thread, I don't do journals, or not in the context that I understand conventional journalling to be. What I often do however, is "think out loud" with pen and paper. Putting stuff down on a page often helps me work through stuff better, and once whatever it is has been worked through, the pages can be discarded. The next time I rethink the same topic, I want to rethink it afresh, and not encumber myself with a previous train of thought.

    However, I now need to put an addendum on this.

    I have read a couple of people on here using the term "commonplace book", and I had absolutely no idea what they meant by it. Having just (and I mean just now) done a web search, I quite like the idea. I have no interest in a "dear diary" type journal, but am more open to the idea of having a lever arch file, within which I might gradually add recipes, quotations, or ideas for creative writing for example. I wouldn't personally call this a journal, but it's an interesting idea that I might dabble with.

    This (unlike a journal) is something that I personally can see purpose in, and something that I might enjoy putting together and keeping. It's also something evolutionary, by which I mean things can be added, removed, or reorganised, rather than just starting at the front cover and finishing when there's no pages left.

    It's also something that I wouldn't mind leaving for discovery by others, as it might leave hints of my character, without the minutiae of my innermost thoughts.
    Last edited by Wuddus; May 7th, 2018 at 08:56 PM.

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

    Wuddus, in some ways the commonplace book reminds me of a desk file. Is that kind of what you had in mind?

    One other question, and please don't take this as a criticism because I'm just curious, but if you discard the pages do you run the risk of repeating yourself when you re-address the topic at a later date? I'm kind of thinking of a much-diluted version of the old saw: he who forgets history is doomed to repeat it.

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

    Hi, VertOlive,

    I do journal. I don't expect anyone will have to burn them; I'll probably get around to doing that. As Wuddus says, they are mostly of me thinking out loud to myself. I just keep it in a notebook, with washi, stickers, etc. It's really a more expressive act to me, and not a book of grievances or anything (though I do have those in there from time to tim).

    If I don't get around to destroying them or burning them, let them read it if they want to read it. I'm not sure I say anything there that I don't say in my poems in a different way. I like to think that even my complaints about my loved ones are usually tempered with something I loved about them, too.
    Lady Onogaro

    "Be yourself--everybody else is already taken." --Oscar Wilde

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

    I've been thinking about these very subjects of late. I journal first because I love the physical act of writing and without my journal I would not get as much of it as I do. Nor would I get to use my pens enough. Journaling helps me think and sometimes work out my feelings about certain people or events. It also records events. Sometimes, on the fairly rare occasions when I read my journal over, I discover events, even in ay the last year, that I'd completely forgotten about, including concerts and movies and the like (this might be a function of age.)

    As to you second question:I burned dozens of journals from an earlier period in my life. They deserved it, being filled with the typical whining of youth. Since I began this round of journaling, about 6 years ago, I've tried to avoid self-pity and other forms of emotional pap. It isn['t always possible, but I've done pretty well. Now I can't decide whether or not to burn this batch. I've made up my mind to decide by January, my 70th birthday.
    To continue to diminish the place of the handwritten in our lives is to diminish, in a small but real way, our humanity. Philip Hensher

    Dunno ergo sum

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Wuddus, in some ways the commonplace book reminds me of a desk file. Is that kind of what you had in mind?

    One other question, and please don't take this as a criticism because I'm just curious, but if you discard the pages do you run the risk of repeating yourself when you re-address the topic at a later date? I'm kind of thinking of a much-diluted version of the old saw: he who forgets history is doomed to repeat it.
    It's just a seedling of an idea that's just been sown. I have no idea if it will sprout, or what it may grow into, or whether it will just decay. Time will tell.

    As to discarding the pages once something is thought through, yes there is indeed the chance that I might repeat myself. However, there is also the chance I might reach a different conclusion. Things that happen between the first and second occurrence, may lead me to reaffirm my first conclusion, or to follow a different path the second time around. I feel it is more important to think freely each and every time, rather than be confined with what I might have thought once before.

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

    I love writing & record-keeping and I keep a few different “journals” including a commonplace book, a nature/weather observation & record, a book review journal, a poetry collection (others’ writing, not mine), an art journal (a mix of creative media), a quotations & lyrics journal, and a few others. Some I write in regularly (the nature journal has daily entries), others are more sporadic. I don’t tend to keep a diary-style traditional journal as I use my art journalling when I want to be more expressive but I do have an “Issues of the Day” notebook. Some of my journals might be of general interest when I’m gone; most won’t be.

    I’ve had some major changes in my life recently that got me thinking about all my “stuff”, including my journals, and I’m starting on a slow process of decluttering, using the principles of dostadning, the Swedish word for “death cleaning”. This is the process of rationalising your life before you die, so your relatives aren’t left with the task of sorting through and disposing of your lifetime’s worth of possessions. It is a common and accepted thing to do in Scandinavia. Dostadning appeals to me at this time in my life and I’m looking forward to clearing my clutter & clearing my mind. My writings & journals will be part of that process.

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

    I would love to find a very old journal, perhaps I should hide a journal, hidden in the rafters of my house. I would like to prepare a journal just for that purpose and enclose things inside the journal and then wonder what the people in 2525 will make of life in 2018.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Fermata View Post
    ...and then wonder what the people in 2525 will make of life in 2018.
    On the assumption that they could still read the (hand)written word.
    "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?

    You could liberally sprinkle it with emoticons. They are the hieroglyphics of the 21st century.

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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 Fermata View Post
    ...and then wonder what the people in 2525 will make of life in 2018.
    On the assumption that they could still read the (hand)written word.
    Funnily enough, I asked an IT expert for their view, they thought it was unlikely that computers in 500 years would be able to read our 21st Century software. he explained why but I got bored halfway through until he showed me his first computer which had its drive on an external cassette.

    In 2000 I made a Millenium capsule, filled with all the stuff that I thought would be of interest to my future self, news clippings and a CD of Prince's 1999. I put it in the garden where it would go undisturbed.

    Dug it up by mistake last year and it was a load of crap, the news stuff was mainly about Clinton and Monica and I dont even have a CD player anymore.
    Last edited by Fermata; May 8th, 2018 at 06:50 AM.

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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 Fermata View Post
    ...and then wonder what the people in 2525 will make of life in 2018.
    On the assumption that they could still read the (hand)written word.
    Funnily enough, I asked an IT expert for their view, they thought it was unlikely that computers in 500 years would be able to read our 21st Century software. he explained why but I got bored halfway through until he showed me his first computer which had its drive on an external cassette.

    In 2000 I made a Millenium capsule, filled with all the stuff that I thought would be of interest to my future self, news clippings and a CD of Prince's 1999. I put it in the garden where it would go undisturbed.

    Dug it up by mistake last year and it was a load of crap, the news stuff was mainly about Clinton and Monica and I dont even have a CD player anymore.
    This has me laughing out loud!

    One would hope at least a handful of scholars would be able to read the handwritten word still.

    As for why I journal, I journal to work a kind of daily therapy for myself, as something to leave as a record of my thoughts for myself and possibly others, and to think things out on paper (which is kind of the therapy part just flushed out).

    As a family genealogist I WISH I had more access to handwritten notes and journals of my ancestors and passed family memebers. I’d leave it to others to destroy my written record if they really wanted to, however I know it could be of use to someone like me to find my journals. That’s not to say I haven’t destroyed some of the writing I did as a late teenager (I went through a few weird phases), but I didn’t destroy all of it. If that comes off as arrogant or ridiculous, that I think others might want access to my thoughts and feelings when I pass, oh well, I guess I’m arrogant then!
    Last edited by Gobblecup; May 8th, 2018 at 08:51 AM.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Gobblecup View Post
    If that comes off as arrogant or ridiculous, that I think others might want access to my thoughts and feelings when I pass, oh well, I guess I’m arrogant then!
    That's probably in response to an earlier post of mine. My bad! Arrogant was a poor choice of word, and not the one I wanted. However, it was the nearest one that I could put my finger on at the time the word I want, still eludes me.

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

    I've burned some of my journals from the past couple of years because they were so intensely personal and served as therapeutic mind dumps. I would't want my kids to find them. But, most of my journal writing is likely so inane that no one would actually want to read them. I have a pile of completed journals that anyone could read at any time and I don't mind.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by VertOlive View Post
    I've been thinking about this after reading another thread here. Now I have two questions:

    1) If you journal, why do you journal, to what purpose?

    2) To those that journal, will you leave them for others to read after you die, or will you burn them?

    I'm still considering my answer to the second question; what about you?
    How timely. I just learned that a longtime pen pal, who contacted me through a pen magazine, has passed away. I still have many of his letters.

    I never burnt a journal, though I had plenty of 'fireplace moments.' When I indulged in teenage or midlife whining, that was who and what I was at the time.

    When reading my mother's journals, I gained an understanding of certain things. Journaling must run in the family.

    And I have too many of them: newly-rediscovered Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron, which I retitled The Inky Pages; my regular daily, which gets ignored now that I'm doing the Inky Pages; Deep Burning Questions; Movie/book/ink reviews; Memorable Writing Examples...and probably a half-dozen I'm forgetting.

    Ur riterz cramp, I ha demz. O welz.

    I do think of combining them all, but the Inky Pages absolutely must be on a cheap spiral notebook in black ink. Maybe the rest of them can be combined. Someday.

    Thanks for starting the topic, V.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by VertOlive View Post
    I've been thinking about this after reading another thread here. Now I have two questions:

    1) If you journal, why do you journal, to what purpose?

    2) To those that journal, will you leave them for others to read after you die, or will you burn them?

    I'm still considering my answer to the second question; what about you?
    1. I journal so people (family, I hope) will know more about me than two dates and a name. I have found that you can take some of the most mundane daily facts, add a slantendicular view of them, cop the right attitude, and write an entertaining story. I read these stories years later and think, "Wow. I had forgotten that!" These stories are interesting and entertaining even to me.

    I also journal simply for the joy of writing. When writing, I usually imagine I am telling the story to a friend over the telephone. Forget the stilted grammar! Ladle in the slang! I am not in high school any more; nobody is looking over my shoulder with a grade book in hand. Sometimes I write and laugh so hard my belly muscles get sore. Terry Pratchett said, "Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself." It is true.

    2. I don't understand people who bare their souls on paper. If you write something down, eventually someone else is going to read it. Paper, clay tablets, or Internet. All the same. Don't worry about burning; don't write personal stuff in the first place. I started journaling at the age of about 8 or 9. This is the only journal I would consider burning. It is so childish. But hey, I was a child once. No shame in that, just embarrassment.
    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?

    1. I keep several notebooks for different purposes — diary, lists, drawings, logs, drafts, morning pages, etc. They are more process than product, not intended to be revisited, though sometimes they help when memory fails.

    2. They are more likely go in the recycling than get burned. (No garden, no furnace.) There's nothing to identify them as mine, no names in full, and my handwriting's pretty illegible.

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

    That settles it.

    I will burn my journals and leave behind a completely fabricated, exotic, handwritten saga for my son to find after I'm gone. His head will spin thinking of how I spent my youth in foreign lands working as a pharmaceutical industrial spy and fashion model. He'll be amazed that he never knew I'd been raised in Egypt by Coptic monks.

    That is, if he can decode the Latin...
    "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life"?—Mary Oliver

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

    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.

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