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Dear Diary

As many of you know, I've recently moved. Some things were no-brainers to let go of, like half-finished projects, or objects or clothes that I felt sad when I looked at them. But other things were more slippery, like the sewing machines that didn't really work, but maybe could if I had them tuned up, and really, doesn't every home need a sewing machine? I donated those too, figuring I'll buy a new machine when and if I want to sew.

But the thing that I ended up keeping, the thing that feels like a millstone around my neck but I can't bear to part with, is all my notebooks and journals. I have boxes of these things. Comics I drew in junior high. Dream journals I kept and analyzed through college. Morning pages I did in my 30's. And dozens of notebooks with only a few pages written in, so of course you can't get rid of those. They're still good!

Part of me thinks that if they're so precious, I should scan them and store them on the cloud so they're archived. And for the text-based things, dictate the contents into a text file (bonus, I'd get better at using dictation software.) But then the thought of actually undertaking the task makes me feel like I need to go take a nap, right this second.

What about you? Do you journal? What do you do with the cumbersome physicality this creates? Is there a statue of limitations where after a certain time, you can toss them?

This diary is a keeper.



( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 21st, 2013 01:18 pm (UTC)
Some day when some university comes looking for your collection of Papers they will want the papers, not the Cloud. So rent a little storage space somewhere and pack 'em in and forget about them.

Okay, I could be wrong and maybe the university will be happy with the cloud. But still.
Jul. 21st, 2013 01:22 pm (UTC)
This idea gets me to thinking about who the papers are for--me, or posterity? Because they feel too personal to release into the wild, so I suspect they're for me. I even curated the little-kid diary page I chose to share. Do I show my cute innocence or snarling belligerence...since apparently after I turned ten I hated everything.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 08:29 am (UTC)
Archives and archivists are already working on natively-digital material, EG: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-05/10/british-library-digital-archives?page=all

Jul. 22nd, 2013 10:06 am (UTC)
Ah well, there you go.

There is something about standing in a museum and looking at the original handwritten papers of someone. But most papers don't find their way to museums anyway.
Jul. 21st, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. It has to be left uncurated, I think. And you have to remind yourself you won't give a damn because you'll be six feet under (or blowing in the wind -- whichever).

Now...what you choose to share when you're still with us, THAT'S different. You might still have to live with the repercussions of stating aloud you hated your ninth grade algebra teacher. ;-)

The thing I have left instructions on is no unreleased or half-finished or private (fictional) writing ever gets released. That stuff gets incinerated.

Maybe there's something strange about that?
Jul. 21st, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who was posting a massive epic (redundant, much?) on a month by month basis and it had been going on for about three years. She is terrified of flying and before her flight she sent me an e-mail that I was not to read unless the plane crashed and she died, letting everyone know how the story was meant to unfold.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 10:07 am (UTC)
That was thoughtful of her!
Jul. 21st, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC)
Interesting, interesting. I do think deciding the distinction between personal and professional items is the key. On the personal level I am striving to return to my army dufflebag/coffeemaker/2 boxes of personal-things-I-can't-let-go-of-way-of-life, so right up front, I am biased.

I dropped the journaling habit in 2003 as I felt everything was, as you say, too personal and frankly, too whiney. Yes, we're supposed to be honest in such pages, but enough was already too much. At the same time I went through and destroyed 15 years of carefully chronicled daily diaries, todo lists, journals, and the like.

Wow- it felt so freeing. While those items were an interesting snapshot of the person I had been (*cough* much cooler than I am now), they were no longer a reflection of the person I had become. The relief letting go of such a dead weight was astounding, and just remember how it felt makes me think it could be time to do it again on some other items.

Professionally, I have file cabinets, binders, notebooks, and enough paper to really make any beginning hoarder proud. Sigh. Okay, sorry. No help whatsoever. :)
Jul. 21st, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
I was really hoping to hear from someone who'd cut the clutter and let go of all the reams of introspection. I sometimes wonder if the amount of self-reflection I do is only useful inasmuch as I do something with it. The self-reflection by itself is only the vehicle.

My fantasy is that I can live out of the army dufflebag (or at least on a houseboat) but my reality isn't exactly lean and mean. I had a three bedroom trailer, so I could set stuff aside and not think about it rather than making the decision to get rid of it.

Did you find any other habits or activities took the place of journaling when you quit? Nowadays I only journal as a way to work through stories. It's kind of fun to read those after the stories are done, to see where the story didn't go. But they're more about my thought process than about my whiny life.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
Part of the thrill of letting all that go was letting go of the guilt for never having the time to go back and self-reflect. Kind of like the stack of magazines I swear I'm going to get to, or the bookmarks of blog articles I plan to read. In some ways the cloud and electronic storage has become my new place to hoard because it's limitless and oh so portable! But totally useless without tags.
Jul. 21st, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
I've only started journaling the last few years. I never did when I was a kid. And yep, I keep them all. What for, who knows? But I can't bring myself to chuck them.

I think that this stuff can be less important to us and more important to people we leave behind when we're gone. After my mum died it was hard to throw away anything she'd personally written, even if it was only cheque stubs or shopping lists.
Jul. 21st, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
It seems like if anyone should see these things after my death, they wouldn't have context for them. I wonder if what I'm saying is the more we all talk about them functioning as a posthumous window to our souls, the more I'm leaning toward getting rid of them.

Do you ever revisit your recent journals? When I come across mine, they always seem to be cringeworthy. In a way it's good to think how far I've come--I recently came across one about how I couldn't seem to fit into my job and how I was trying so hard and no one appreciated it. I mean, I wish I could go back to my old self and say, "And no one ever will, just quit!" But I don't know how much self-reflection is serving me here.
Jul. 21st, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
I glance at them sometimes. But really they're more sort of "brain dump". Get my thoughts out, so they don't go round and round in my head. Works through them. I keep writing notes in a different notebook or in Evernote.
Jul. 21st, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering if "brain dump" is where I'll start purging. Those seem more useful as a piece of process than a piece of history.
Jul. 21st, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
I journal sporadically and also stick all sorts of random and mundane things in them, like receipt and tickets. At one point of my life journal writing was a way to release stress and frustration. They probably paint me much more whiney and angry than I really was.

I like to have travel journals--to store pictures, impressions during road trips and other travels. One of them came handy writing a story.

Jul. 21st, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
I like the thought that maybe I'm not really as whiny as these writings would have me appear :D

Your travel journals sound like a great idea. It would be a nice way to wind down the day, a way to keep a bit of the magic from a trip. Maybe I'll try that.
Jul. 21st, 2013 04:17 pm (UTC)
Imo, journals are great for recording the mundane stuff we tend to forget but they make up most of our existence. :P
Jul. 21st, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
I know people who lost everything on their computer hard drive and found it very liberating. Is that helpful at all?

I also know a professor who walked away from his job of 10 years without saving any of his e-mail before the university closed his account. 10 years of e-mails and research contained in e-mails back and forth, just gone. He seemed perversely pleased.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:16 am (UTC)
I lost three years of email and found it to be detrimental to my business, so after that I switched to Gmail so it couldn't happen again. There were other things on the computer it was liberating to lose, but the email I needed for reference. It sounds like that professor was REALLY ready to retire!
Jul. 21st, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
I must admit that I can't hand-write a journal worth spit. However, I blog six days a week and have done that for more than 1500 posts, so I guess that's a type of journal. My sketchbooks, however...'nuff said - LOL.

- Erulisse (one L)
Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
What's appealing about having the journal be digital is the ability to tag it with metadata and to search it. Maybe that's why I'm leaning toward digitizing my dream journals.
Jul. 22nd, 2013 08:27 am (UTC)
That's a tough category, definitely - my path is smoothed by the fact that I a) was never very good at keeping journals until the digital kind came along and b) my dyslexia is bad enough that I basically can't *read* my own hand writing, so it's much easier to trash notebooks of brain dump that I mostly can't make head or tail off.

Maybe keep a certain number of months worth as a rolling archive, and then take a representative sample for posterity - one for each year, or life stage, or the book you were using around particular life events (a school one, a college one, a first job one, the time you were preparing to go full time on the writing etc) to keep the volume down a bit? Or maybe even tear out pages for key events and come up with a master file?)

Jul. 22nd, 2013 11:19 am (UTC)
I seem to get greater wow-value from the older material. I found a few pages on my goals and priorities from exactly ten years ago, and it was eye-opening to see how my life had changed. Back then I felt undervalued in a job, and it was poignant to think I stayed for years after and still felt undervalued the entire time. It gave me perspective on being more decisive about what I want.
Jul. 31st, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Awww This is cute :D Cool that it was kept :D


Jul. 31st, 2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
It had both cute and cringe-worthy entries :D
Aug. 9th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, I start journals and then peter out a few weeks or months into them, so there's not much to carry around.

Do they feel like anchors or millstones? Being anchored is good. Having a millstone dragging you down... not so much.
Aug. 10th, 2013 11:47 am (UTC)
I've trashed the ones that feel like millstones. I've decided to digitize the dream journals for reference because I want to start working with dreams again. It's tedious but good practice for the dictation software I've never had the patience to train on.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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