What do I do with my journal?

Are you afraid that someone will find out your journal secrets? That when you die your life will be there for all to see? If this is keeping you from writing in a journal, could you reconsider? There are steps you can take to protect your privacy, and some things to think about before you cut off your connection to the past.

If you feel strongly that your privacy not be invaded, you can rent a safe deposit box at a bank. Put your completed journals in this safe deposit box and give the key to a trusted friend.

open journalJulia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way,” and the proponent of writing three pages of whatever you are thinking every single morning was asked at a book signing if she keeps her journals. She said she did, they fill a storage locker. She has an agreement with her daughter, her executor, that she be cremated. “But first, burn the books. Then burn me!” Cameron said.

Before you choose to keep your life such a secret, let me encourage you to let go. Once you are dead your past is not going to haunt you. And it might help others. My mother’s life was a mystery to me. I was born late in her life and only knew her as angry and manipulative. Sure, she had bright moments, but they were short and quickly dispensed with.

After her death, I found a packet of love letters she and my father had exchanged. So strong was her hold over me, even from the grave, that I seriously considered destroying the letters, unopened. When I read through them, another woman emerged. One I had never known. A young woman, the woman who was the mother to my brothers. She seemed eager to live her life. I never found out what had shut her down, although she had many reasons.

Without those letters, I would have never had a chance to see this other person. This person with hope and humor. This woman who suddenly had more in common with me than I ever believed. It was a generous gift to discover.  I’m sure she would have hated my prying into her past, but now that I know, it is also easier for me to be easier on her.

Before you lock up your past, think about the help you might be. That event you are ashamed of might help someone else, might change their mind, might leave a word of encouragement. Once you are gone, your life in this world is complete. Leave some clues for the next generation. You might create a picture of yourselves for people who are not even born. Give them a view into your life, and into the status of life in a time period they never knew.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who teaches journal writing. See her work at QuinnCreative.com You can also read about Raw Art Journaling for journal writers who can’t draw.

7 thoughts on “What do I do with my journal?

  1. Dear Quinn,

    These posts about keeping a journal and making one, are all very inspiring and fun too!

    When my father had passed away, my children and I discovered at the end of my parent’s bed a hidden space with five big maps.
    The maps contain all the letters my mother had written to her parents since the beginning of her marriage, in 1952.
    She writes about life’s daily things, about my father, about her pregnancy, me her first baby, about what they ate. Her letters are such a treasure of information!

    I discovered a very lively loving energetic woman.

    Well I may have to make some really pretty new maps to keep her letters in.

    My grandfather, her father, wrote to each of his children a letter each week and he kept all their letters so when he had passed away my mother must have found her letters again. They describe a large part of her life as a spouse, as a mother and as a grandmother.

    Big hug for you,

    Marianne Winia

  2. Could you shift your head just a bit to the left? You’re blocking the best camera view as you write in that journal of yours…

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