Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: If you journal, do you keep all your old journals, or do you purge them? Why?
Jamie Wallace: I have been journaling since I was seven years old and have never thrown out a single notebook. My collection lives in a variety of locations around my home – some on the bookcases in the living room, some in Tupperware bins in the storage space, some tucked in amongst my writing books on the bookshelf in my office. I rarely read them, but I like having them around. I’ve sometimes felt like I ought to lighten the load a little, but then I think about the box of old notes and love letters that I tossed when I was moving out of my parents home. It was an impulsive action and very out of character, but my boyfriend at the time was there and I was doing the whole “I-was-so-young-then” thing and into the trash they went. I still think about them now and again, and I wish I hadn’t let them go. It’s not that I have any ties or even clear memories about the boys who had sworn their undying love. Not at all. But, there was something captured in those notes – some essence of the boy-meets-girl story, some irretrievable moment of true and unblemished infatuation. I should like to have them still. They would make for interesting reading.
Diane MacKinnon: I, like Jamie, have been journaling since I was a kid, but I didn’t started until the advanced age of 11. Right after I read Harriet the Spy, I got a marble notebook and starting writing in it. I still have most of my old journals, but I’ve lost a few along the way. I still think about the ones I lost with regret. I have told my twin sister that, if I die, she gets all my journals, to do with as she wishes. She can read them or not read them. I don’t tend to save stuff–except letters and journals. Those I hang on to. My mom once told me that she threw out all her sister’s letters after she died of cancer at the age of 42 (my mom would have been in her late 30’s at the time) and she always regretted it. Maybe that’s why I keep anything with a handwritten note on it.
Lisa J. Jackson: I still have every journal I’ve ever written, including my childhood diaries. I always think I’ll go back and read them someday, or leave them for someone else to read, but as I continue to downsize my living space, I think I’ll end up destroying them at some point. I’ve always used them to ‘download’ my thoughts to declutter my mind, so I’m not sure I’d gain much by going back through them. I’m not sure there is any benefit to reliving my life, since I’m focused on moving forward. All my journals and diaries are all boxed away and stashed in a corner, except for the most recent ones. I have had quite a variety in the types of journals I’ve written in, too, over the years. My favorite is the composition notebooks that I can get at Walmart in August for .25 each – back to school sales are great for a writer!
Susan Nye: I don’t keep journals. I started one when I first moved to Europe. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A couple months into it, I re-read what I’d written. Instead of being filled with fascinating stories and characters, most of it sounded silly and mundane. The day I wiped out my hard drive. Missing my then boyfriend. Even when you live abroad, most days are not filled with enthralling adventures. Of course there were a few more interesting bits. Like the weekend in I spent in Vienna. I saw Don Giovanni in the fabulous opera house and ate in a 400 year old restaurant. But it was not enough to keep me at it.
Deborah Lee Luskin: I’ve been keeping journals – and saving them – forever. And recently, I took a huge box of them out of the attic to research the mind of a teen that was me forty years ago. For most of the last ten years, I’ve been keeping an electronic journal, and I don’t know if or how I’ll ever go back through it. I often think about burning the old ones and deleting the e-ones, but so far, running out of space in my attic or on my hard drive hasn’t forced the issue. I’m pretty clear that it’s the writing of the journal that is helpful, not so much the reading of them. And deciding whether to keep or destroy them right now isn’t as important as, say, folding and hanging this week’s laundry, or picking the berries that ripen apace in this heat, so I’m not likely to do anything about them – except keep writing.