Do Your Private Journals Have an Audience?

Sunday, December 21, 2014
I got my first blank journal from my aunt when I was seven years old. My first entry is one page and documents a trip to a Penn State Football game and how my family tailgated and ate good food.

Not long after I wrote that, I walked into my aunt’s living room to find my 13-year-old cousin reading my journal entry out loud to his brother and mine, both about 10 years old. (This is the same cousin who spilled the beans about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, although surprisingly not about Santa Claus.)

I remember feeling embarrassed that he read my unedited thoughts out loud to an unintended audience. And yet I stood in the doorway for a minute or two to hear the sound of my words coming from another’s voice.

I have continued to keep journals, but have not, apparently, gotten any better at hiding them. When I was a teenager, my mom seemed to know a little bit more about what I did and where I went and with whom than she should have. I remember scouring my old entries, looking for the evidence, trying to read the entries from her point of view.

One day in my late twenties, I came home from work, sat down at my desk, and bumped my knees on an open desk drawer, one I knew I had not left open, the one which housed my journal. When my boyfriend--who is now an ex--came over, I asked him how long he had been reading my journals. He shrugged. And here I thought he was just really intuitive about my thoughts and feelings.

So now I write my journal entries in digital documents that cannot be accessed without a password or really refined hacking skills. I need a space to myself. I use my journals as a form of meditation; as a place to brainstorm; a ranting room; a sanctuary. It makes me wonder, though, who IS my intended audience? I think I imagine and older--hopefully wiser--version of myself reading them someday. But with what purpose?

Writing digital journal entries in password-protected documents has its obvious perks—security, I can write more because I type faster than I hand write, I can add digital content like photos, web site links, videos—but it lacks something, too, and I’m not sure what it is. I keep contemplating returning to a paper journal. Perhaps I could buy a safe to keep it in.

I am curious what your experiences are with keeping journals. Have you had your journal privacy violated? If so, what, if anything, did you do about it? Or do you willingly share your journals with others? Who is your intended audience?  Is there any reason to keep your journals when you finish writing them? What do you plan to do with them?

Some great resources I frequently visit for journaling inspiration:

I am also a fan of art journaling, which helps my creative writing. I’ll discuss in a later post, so stay tuned!

Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor


Judy H said...

I have been journaling on and off (more on in past years) since high school. I am 57. I carry my journal with me and my old ones are stacked on a shelf. I figure no one ever thought what I was writing was interesting enough to go and read. Since I am obvious about my journaling, for someone to read they would out themselves not only to me, but everyone I know. I figure if you are that interested, what you read is what you get and if your feelings are hurt, so be it.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--When I write in a journal, my handwriting is pretty much illegible to anyone except me. So anyone could pick it up, and all they'd wonder is, 'What language is this written in?' because they for sure couldn't read it.

Monica Stoner said...

I find writing by hand (illegible though it might be) helps me kick start my creative process. Yes, I can write much faster on the computer but until I write myself into 'the zone' it's words without depth.
A few minutes of just writing either journal type entries or ideas and questions about my book, and not even squeaking dogs can pull me away from what I'm writing.
As far as the privacy issue, I think someone reading my personal thoughts without permission has just demonstrated a total lack of respect for my trust

Margo Dill said...

I have journaled off and on but I am currently working on a project with Mari from CreateWriteNow and she is really convincing me of the benefits of doing it EVERY DAY and BY HAND! :) Thanks for this post. :) I do hope that my journal is private. But maybe I need to get one of those lock and key diaries. . .

Eugenia Parrish said...

My first journal wasn't a journal, I guess, it was an adorable diary with stars on the front and a strap that whipped around the front and fastened WITH A KEY! I immediately spent my allowance on a wisp of a chain to wear the key around my neck. Such secrets could not be allowed to get into the wrong hands. Since then I've developed a more realistic view of the value of my thoughts. On the other hand, I've not known anyone for years who would bother. I guess they hear enough about my thoughts and ideas around the dinner table.

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