Do you keep a diary or journal? If so, what do you write about? How often do you write in it? Do you document the mundane, such as the day’s weather, or do you write deep, private thoughts? Is it paper or computer-based?
There is a line in the Tony Robbins self-help series that goes something like ‘a life well-spent is a life worth recording.’ That’s not the exact quote but it’s close enough to illustrate my point. A journal can be a great record of your life, no matter what happens in your life. It can be shared with others if you so choose or it can just be something to help you learn later what you were thinking about when you wrote something. It can document progress toward your life goals.
Some of my Mother’s diaries and my Dad’s ‘life story’ were among the few things that survived my sister’s flooded house after Hurricane Katrina. I knew about Dad’s four-page life story but never read it till we salvaged it during the cleanup. I was surprised by some of what he wrote. He was more articulate than I thought, there were revised versions of two of his childhood stories and he addressed his racism, claiming he was not racist the way some people (including me) thought he was.
Mom’s writing was more basic yet more formal. She wrote almost daily entries in pocket sized ‘calendar’ diaries, noting mundane things like doctor visits or that’s day’s weather. Her journalism is a time capsule in some ways. One notation mentioned the family doctor’s house call; some boomers might be old enough to remember when doctors did that.
The parental journals are buried in some of my still-unopened moving boxes but I plan to read them as soon as I find them again. As I packed my stuff in December I ran across a few of my own journals and was surprised by some of what I wrote. I discovered patterns in my life, some of which I continue to repeat and some which I have learned from and try to not repeat.
All of that leads me to more questions … how private should personal journals be? Should they be written to be read eventually by others or should they be strictly for the writer’s eyes only? Should you commit your deepest, most personal intimate thoughts to print?
I could make a case for writing your most personal thoughts, completely uncensored … it could be a learning experience as you read your own intimate thoughts years later. On the other hand, do you want somebody else to read your completely uncensored writing? I have no answers to those questions.
My own writing has been relatively personal and the subjects of those journals might not want to read what I wrote about them. Some people close to me might not want to know that much about my inner thoughts. I, however, have no limit when it comes to wanting to know the deepest, most personal thoughts and feelings about people I know, especially my closest friends. I am curious about what they think, even if they have negative or unflattering thoughts about me.
Some of what I wrote in my own past journals was obviously written with the thought that someone else would eventually see the material. I can tell I was holding back. In some cases, however, I wrote completely uncensored ‘letters to myself’ and those provided the biggest learning opportunity for me. I discovered some patterns in my last relationship, for example, that made me realize it had died a long time ago and would never come back to life. I was shocked, in fact, by how long that stuff had been going on and reading it led me to finally take long overdue action.
I am seriously considering writing a new set of journals about individuals I know or have known. The initial sentences in my head are completely unfiltered, with the idea that I will be the only reader until these writing are discovered after I die. In that scenario I should write exactly what I think, both good and bad, and proceed without fear that what I write will hurt or embarrass the subjects of my writing.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you might think I am an open book and in many ways this serves as my journal; but I am more private that I seem to be. I have no privacy limit with my closest friends, however; I will answer any question they ask. The funny part is that I am much more curious about them than any of them are about me. Maybe I’ll understand that one day.
So, should I start my new project? Paper or computer? Hide it or leave it out in the open for possible discovery? Ask those questions about your own writing. If you are a close in-person friend, take a chance and share some of it with me. You know how curious I am.