Thursday, June 11th, 2015

The Art of Journaling: Keep or Destroy Part 1- Keep



If you have held on to your journals, notebooks, diaries, etc., why have you kept them? In what ways have they served you, or how do they continue to serve you?

Mandy van Goeije: It was never a question whether or not to keep them. I always thought I’d sort them out later. But it’s never ‘later’. They’ve moved house with me ten times, in a growing formation. Now I have moving boxes full of them. Notebooks, journals, diaries…I don’t even know how many ’cause I’m afraid to count. They weigh on me, in all honesty. There’s so much ‘nagging’ in there. Things I’m way past. Not much fun reading that back. But there’s also really beautiful stuff in there that I can’t bear to throw away and that I might want to leave to my kids. I’m thinking of a way how to do that without burdening them with the ‘nagging’. But so far I haven’t really been able to come up with a good idea.

Kim: I keep the recent ones…say, the last year or two… and then, the journals that cover specific formative times/experiences in my life.

anonymous : I’ve kept them because they are a better record of my life than my memories. I’ve read certain parts when things come up again. It’s typically disappointing that I didn’t write enough detail to satisfy future me. Occasionally I’ve read something that reminded me “oh, that’s why that was a bad idea.”

Susan: I have a few more recent journals. I always have notebooks around. Maybe too many! I like to always have paper and pen within reach when thoughts and ideas pop into my head. Sometimes they are the fodder for blog posts, projects or classes.

Denise Getchell: I have kept my journals from the last 7 or 8 years because some of the writings are issues or experiences that are in them I m still working on in my present life. And it is good for me to go back and read them to see how much I have grown, let go and worked through the stuff that has influenced my life.

Starflower: I keep all my journals. They document my evolution from being co-dependent, addicted and unaware to a fully functioning, emotionally mature, creative adult. My poetry, dreams, songs, sorrows, joys, memories and intentions are here, sometimes the inspiring writings of others. I like to look back at the intentions I’ve set and notice how these have manifested, as they almost always do, and how long it takes. I may one day mine these journals to write an inspiring story for others.

Lisa: I have held onto certain excerpts from journals that were meaningful. Generally, they were poems or creative writing and not merely “diary” entries. Many were also passed on to others that could also enjoy them.

Marlana Eck: I’ve held onto my journals because I feel that when we get older, we lose parts of ourselves. My journals show me where I came from, what my goals and thoughts have been–even how I think. For instance, I can trace my decision making style back to when I started making “fork in the road” type decisions. I still vacillate in the same way.

Ray of Sunshine: My journals have been many things to me over the years. They have been my dream recorders, my to do lists, my random babbling of event observations, my hearts words and an account of my heart vs mind’s many battles. I love to look back randomly and reflect on snippets of my past selves, priorities, creative processes, recurring patters, etc. I am a very in the moment person so it is helpful to me to find my feet back on the ground thru my written history.

Kerri: Sometimes I think I would like someone to read them after I’m gone as if they will have a better understanding of me. But really, it’s probably because I can’t bear to throw them away. I don’t feel served by them right now; when I revisit them, I fail to see much growth, but rather patterns and behaviors that I keep repeating, such as poor me. I suppose this could be a launching pad for growth, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe that’s another reason I hang on because one day I am going to exceed my own expectations and finally I will feel served by keeping a record.

Dani Fisher: They continue to serve me because I see how intuitive I was in the past. I can tell how I was preparing for my future life.

Marie: I have some of my journals from the 80’s. My teenage journals were lost during a move and I still miss them. I keep my journals because I find that they provide a great reference about me life, the reinforce memories and, in a more mundane way, they refresh my memory for things like remembering when I did this or that. I love having these touchstones of my past.

Beth Ann McFadden: I keep them so I can look back at past ideas and art works to create them

Lizzie Jordon: Journaling set me free from the otherwise debilitating emotional effects of the sexual trauma I experienced in my home. As I grew with my journals and my journaling practice, I nurtured the idea that one day I would draw from them for reference to personal growth and for the writing of a book.

Zoe ZenGarden: I have kept all of the notebooks in which I write my Morning Pages (an exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, where I write 3 pages, longhand, as soon as possible after waking). They serve as a reminder to release the petty stuff that clutters up my mind and clouds my vision. If my memory should fade as I age, hopefully they will serve as a testament to a good life, well lived.

Maria Mercedes Trujillo A. from MagaMerlina: My journals are my treasures. In them is my journey as an artist/crafter, part of my life and part of who I am. I love looking at my artistic journey recorded in them, see how much I’ve learned, I also get inspiration there. Journals are my main art expression.

kris10: Kept some for reminders of good times good friendships first loves..chronicles of my life..lessons learned etc. They don’t serve me now..but would hope my kids might read one day and discover things they may or may not have known about me

Danielle Notaro: I have kept them because they document my life. And my poems, some pieces of prose are kept in them too. I want to be able to look back and review my life, see the evolution of it, all the people I love or have loved. And future writings they store.

Deb: Early on they provided affirmation of my current feelings and situation. Later, destroying them provided conviction that I had worked through my situation.

Ann: The journals I’ve kept are from the last 14 years and are the ones from my spiritual journey working with a teacher, taking notes on the teachings, recording my insights, dreams, a-ha moments, wonderings, and quotes. I keep them because someday I hope to compile all the teachings into a book along with my mandala art.

Sunshine: On occasion I review them to remember where/who I was at various times in my life. And compare/contrast with how I have changed, grown, tackled obstacles, reflected on what I believed was important in my life at various times.

Cleveland Wall: I use more recent journals to look up when a particular thing happened, what was the name of the film I read about, etc. And to remind myself of ideas or projects I wanted to pursue. I don’t often refer to my older journals for this purpose. They are still around partly due to inertia, but I do pick one up now and then for a lark, to look in on my prior self and see what was going on in that other time and place.

4ravens: The majority of my journals were written during and after my experience of miscarriage and the stillbirths and neonatal death of our sons. My journals are a record of my experience, they also show how far I have come in my grief journey. I hope to one day write my story so I keep them.

Gloria Domina: I enjoy going back into my memories and they serve me not to repeat the same difficulties over.

Have you kept your journals and notebooks over the years? Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below. 

9 thoughts on “The Art of Journaling: Keep or Destroy Part 1- Keep

  1. I journaled as a teenager for 5 years and those books are precious to me as a person standing on the brink of life Tet to be lived. I didn’t start jornaling again until my 50th birthday experience of traveling with 12 women to Maine. I was really escaping a terrible home life that my husband and I were dealing with regarding a recently diagnosed ADD teenage son who was pulling our marriage apart. It brought me so much release to deposit all those torturous feelings into a book where I could leave them free of charge without paying an expensive therapist. After 22 years, I am still journaling to deal with the joy and sadness, pain and happiness of my life. But all of my three children are now divorced and my seven grandchildren who went through that with their parents are all teens or college age. I wonder if they were to read the things I wrote about that if they would be angry or sad to know their grandmother felt as she did towards the parent who left. My husband had an affair when he was 60 that we worked through, but I was angry and expressed my feelings. No one knows about it in the family – would it hurt them to know after we are gone or would they admire how we got through it? I lived in an abusive marriage but stayed – would they admire me for that, hate their father, or wish they hadn’t known all that? My parents were locked up emotionally – I never knew their thoughts. I don’t want my children to feel that way about me. So do I keep or throw away these epistles of a life lived fully and with every emotion known to man? That is a good question!

  2. I have kept all of my old journals and notepads. I have several moving boxes packed full wrapped carefully in plastic (double-bagged) with a cup or two of Borax tossed inside. I live in the soggy Pacific Northwest, where if it does not rust, it molds. Our constant damp and humid weather plays hell on journals left alone in the garage or shed for years.
    When I retired, and we moved off post for the last time, I carefully packed up journals from nearly 23 years of service. Some of the memories are extremely painful; ones I do not wish to repeat or remind myself of. Some of the painful memories are bittersweet. Some of my writing is of friends that died or were injured in combat. For some of those fallen heroes, my journal is the only thing, other than the usual pictures from deployments, that I have of them.
    A movie to be released soon about a Marine working dog, reminded me that I had written about two Army service dogs that I had become close to. I was not a dog handler, but I was always happy to have a dog handler along with my platoon.
    One dog was injured my third tour in Iraq, losing a front leg to an IED. His handler (now retired as well) adopted him. The dog is living out his remaining days on the soldier’s farm in central Ohio.
    The second dog and his Green Beret handler were my hooch and bunk mates for most of my second tour in Afghanistan. We became close. His dog was killed by a mortar round just two months before we were to depart Afghanistan.
    So, no, I do not throw any of my journals away. The memories in them may be painful, sometimes, but they are mine. Perhaps, someday I will let my children, and hopefully someday, grandchildren read them. Sometimes, I am amazed that I was able to form a cognizant thought without adding several popular four-letter words in a sentence. I just hope that future readers can get past the excessive use of profanity.

  3. I keep mine because they’re a part of who I am, my being in words. I have specific rules about not writing negative things about family in them, but other than that, any topic is fair game. I’ve noticed over the years I’ve gotten a lot more detailed in my journaling, and I take that as a sign of personal growth.

  4. I destroyed my previous journals as I got paranoid about them possibly being seen and now I very much regret it. Some of them I had scanned but it’s not the same. They did contain a lot of angst and bad stuff which I’d hate anyone to see but they also recorded a lot of memories which I now wish I still had a record of.

    I have now started journalling again. I keep a daily scrapbook kind of diary where I write daily events and also paste in photos and other things but I also keep a separate journal for my feelings and getting things off my chest as it’s something I need to do, but I still find I am censoring what I write. I have read a book where the author suggests keeping a notebook with perforated pages so you can destroy the really bad stuff that could possibly offend someone. I am now wondering if this is worth doing. There will still be some feelings I write down that I’ll want to keep but nothing that causes offence. Has anyone got any views on this? Also how do I get over the regret of destroying my previous journals as I know they are gone now and I can’t get them back.

  5. When we reach our senior years and may want to write memoirs, having old journals along with photos and letters, scapbooks and videos will be invaluable. And some of our personal writings will be precious gifts for our children and grandchildren who in their later years will likely want to know more of who we were. Oh what I would give to be able to read journals written by my grandparents!

  6. I use my journals for appointment books as well as recording daily activities and my thoughts. I keep them to pass down to family, as have other family members have done for me. It was great to learn about ancestors I never got to meet and have insight into how they lived.

  7. Oh, I’ve definitely kept my journals and notebooks (even sketchbooks). It’s like the yearbook I actually like to look at.
    I like to look back at them and read on what kind of person I was at that time. It makes me feel like I have my own little time machine where I am travelling back to get reacquainted with my past self.
    A lot of my journals seem like stories of the past. What life was like then compared to now.

    Sometimes I feel like these journals that I expressed my thoughts in and tell my days to are a way to reconnect with myself and remind me how much my life is progressing. It reminds me that my life now is not as cringe-worthy then when I made careless decisions. And it reminds me of how great my life overall is despite the conundrums it holds.

  8. I’ve only been journaling since 2007 but have a daily and a travel journal. I’ve kept them all. I lost my wife to cancer last July 14th so the journals are more important than ever, especially the travel ones.

  9. When I moved in with my boyfriend, I went through all of my old journals I had, and ripped out/throw away the entries. Maybe that was a stupid thing to do, as I know that some of the entries would have been good to have around.
    Now I write, and I have planned on keeping them for a couple of years anyway. As what I write now is just not chitter chatter about the day, but lots about how I feel too, since I got diagnosed with bipolar disease. Im trying to get a better understanding about myself, and how I act and do when in certain ups and downs in my life.

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