Gary Varner expounds on an earlier post about who gets to see our journals:


"…the question of “can one write freely in a journal,” or does our
internal censor too frequently override the desire to write without
boundaries. Personally, I’ve never felt 100% free in my written
journals, either thinking someone might peek or one day my sons would
sit and read through Dad’s ramblings, thus evidencing what they
suspected all those teenage years: Dad really did have a few loose
screws. I have tried using a password-locked computer-based journal,
and while that allows freerer expression, the fact it was an artificial
protection made me feel too sneaky about what I was writing. Maybe if I
had a burning need to express anger at someone or something more often
this “write freely” concept would be an issue, but the truth is my
journals are largely about mundane, daily things or my repetitions of
imploring myself to achieve more, stick to goals, lose weight, yada,
yada. In other words, the usual tripe that infects the majority of

Gary Varner

Visit his blog, "Inkmusings"
Related post.

© 2006 GV

5 thoughts on “Inkmusings

  1. I feel fairly free about writing about anything in my journal, but there certainly are things that I wish I could write about that I don’t want people in the future to read and judge me based on, or for my parents to see. What are you to do if you have to write but can’t put it in the only permanent place you know?

  2. Burn it. It’s actually safer than encrypted data. Seriously. I love my Moleskines, but I don’t fetishize them. They’re tools. Very nice, sleek tools. And sometimes tools break and need repaired or replaced. A few pages torn out, or an entire book gone. You’re only out the money.

    That, or do what I do: either live with the fact that the greatest people of all time have thought things as stupid as the rest of us and written them down, or realise the chances are pretty slim anyone will look anyway. If you’re not writing this for you, you’re writing it for the wrong reasons.

    And as for all those famous folk, quite often some lovely grad student has come along and weeded all the garbage out. You may not get the grad-student-of-the-future assistance, but you can rest assured you’re saying about as many stupid/inappropriate things as anyone else.

  3. I’m totally burning all mine before I die. I suppose it’s important to do it oneself, after what happened to Marcus Aurelius — he ordered his journal burned, but whoever was supposed to burn it didn’t, and it turned out to become the Meditations we have today. While it’s certainly a wonderful book, it would have been nice if his wishes had been carried out, even if they might be considered a little selfish:)

  4. Interesting question. Who do we write for? If we only write for ourselves, shouldn’t we destroy the writing or plan its destruction on our deaths? Do we write for our loved ones and our children? Do we write for strangers?

    I have an old journal in which I wrote most of my teenage and college angst. I don’t know that the things in there are things I want to share with the people in my life now. It’s a lot of material and it might be interesting to some but to those close to me, many of the thoughts might be painful to people close to me.

    It’s too bad there isn’t a way to lock something off for 100 years and then have it discovered without it being able to be unlocked until then. Maybe that’s something to look into – a time controlled lock of some sort.

  5. Any writer can easily fall prey to two mistakes here:

    1/ assuming that anything s/he is doing at any moment will be worth reading in 100 years (much less NEED reading)… a kind of scrying of the future that equates to thinking one knows what history will want (ie, you?) This sort of inadvertant solipsism is very dangerous to the innocence needed for true creative expression; and

    2/ again assuming that there is another reader for this, beyond yourself. You do it for you, at that moment, in that place, and then you move on. In the future, you might look back and shake your head or nod it. But at the time the words are going down on paper, there should be no other thought in your head but what comes immediately next. If you’re writing for someone else, then, at the moment of translation from muse to paper, you’re handicapping yourself at the moment when you need all your wits about you to get it right.

    Making art is one of the only times in life when you’re actually required to think of nothing but your own selfish need. Who knows what will come of it when you just let go? That’s risky, and risks take guts. And they more often than not yield failures. But, if it turns out well and someone else eventually sees it, they’ll either get it or not get it, dig it or not dig it, and you won’t care. Because you got to do it and, at the risk of descending into complete maudlin corn, you did it in a way that was true to both yourself and the original creative impulse.

    Of course, this is all the writing equivalent of new-age mumbo jumbo when the first bad review comes in, but….. That’s when burning things comes in really handy…

    Just don’t waste your time/thought trying to read ahead in the book of History. History reads you.

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