Private Thoughts: Diaries and Journals

This is not meant as a scientific poll by any means, but more of a curiosity:  do you keep a diary or journal that is just for you? In this era of social media, it seems sometimes that there is no privacy at all.  We post often and regularly to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr (or whatever the latest one is – I can’t keep up!). Many of us post regularly to our blogs, sharing our works of art as well as our opinions and thoughts on the world.

But there are a lot of times when I have things that I need to say, but I need to say them to no one at all.  I used to keep a paper diary but that was hard to manage because A) my handwriting is atrocious, B) finding storage for all those notebooks in my tiny, little, crooked house is not easy and C) I would have to take the laptop off my lap in order to put a notebook there…and that’s just not likely to happen.

I used to use my diary as a place to “just write”. Some days it was my deepest, darkest secrets. Some days it was just me waxing poetic about the girl with the beautiful hair who wouldn’t give me the time of day. Some days it was me doodling with a new story idea that magically started to appear on the page as I was waxing poetic about that girl with the beautiful hair.  I used to be diligent about it – 30 minutes, every day, no matter what.  I’d go back days or weeks later and read what I wrote, often being able to pull a neat little short story out of the debris field of my written mind-dump.  While times and life have changed, I’d like to get back to that kind of structure where I write whatever thoughts come to mind without any particular goal or target…though I suspect most of my commentary will be about coffee these days.

Regardless of the potential topics, I’ve tried various online tools to keep my private thoughts and ideas safe and secure, but I’ve never really been happy with them.  Private blogs work okay but end up distracting me anyway as I fiddle with the look and feel (even though it’s just for my eyes only).  I find online notebooks like evernote to be clumsy and hard to use.  I’ve used Microsoft Word documents but they, too, come to a point where I get distracted by fonts and colors and formatting and tables of contents and… you get the picture.

The issue is clearly me more than it is the tools.  I have settled on a private blog for now but I’m curious what methods the Today’s Author community might be using for a modern, comfortable, easy-to-use-and-not-too-distracting journal or diary.  I’d love to hear your methods for letting the private thoughts out while still keeping them private.

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14 thoughts on “Private Thoughts: Diaries and Journals

  1. I journal two or three times a week, usually. I answer the big ‘life’ questions, and journal about the things I’d like to accomplish in my life. Things like that.

    • Yes, that’s basically the same kind of topics I always intended to cover and answer… sometimes I did, usually it led to more questions than I started with…sometimes it turned into a sci-fi comedy about alien overlords coming here and meeting me, then throwing up their hands/tentacles/detachable-sucker-pods in disgust at having to deal with me and my crazy questions about life…

  2. A couple months ago I felt the need to write down some other rather personal thoughts, but blogging them didn’t feel right, so I grabed a notebook and gave journaling a try. I think it has become even more necessary than ever to keep what is private just private. If anything else, it helps sorting out ideas and discharge negative feelings, organizing my thoughts, say what I want to say without restrictions and without judgement or bothering anyone with my ramblings…

  3. I’ve tried keeping a journal, but I never have been able to manage the keeping it going part. The closest I’ve ever gotten is my blog.

    • I used to be very diligent with my journal. I kind of got tired of writing the same things every day though, since my life is a rather scripted monotony and therefore the questions and answers continue to be largely the same. I wish I could develop the dedication to writing my blog on a regular basis, but that would mean I’d need to decide on a focus for it and, well, I haven’t done that either.

  4. Interesting article, Rob. Me, I have no thoughts that are intensely private. If they are (like a few of my younger actions I am embarrassed about to this day), I’d not want them memorialized on paper–or digitally. I did try it once, to abject failure.

    • I totally understand on the younger actions” bit. I have nearly every single thing I’ve ever written and when I go back and read the things I wrote as a teen…well, I remember every emotion and feeling I had at the time and in the wisdom of my advancing years I’m embarrassed for that awkward, needy boy I was.

  5. Rob, I’m touched by this line: times when I have things that I need to say, but I need to say them to no one at all. It’s humble, a quality we don’t often recognize.
    I’ve always felt a journal or diary should be private. Not every little thought in our heads needs to find itself on public display.

    • I agree that not every thought should be displayed… but it sure feels like the world is moving away from that and more into one where everything is on display all the time. And yes, I truly do have a lot of things to say that need to be said but do not need to be heard (and frankly, should not be heard). I have in the past gotten those out by making a character say them… but nowadays it’s a struggle to even do that. So…diaries/journals come back as an option in my mind at least.

  6. Rob, I have the same problem as you. I hate my penmanship anymore and the computer programs for diaries/journals don’t suit me. Right now I use a word processor program that’s compatible with Word. I can make the pages any color I want, which enunciates the difference between my personal journal and any other writing I do. It’s an offline program so I feel I’m in private when I write in it. It isn’t exactly what I want but it’s working for now.

  7. I used to journal regularly but now only do it when I am struggling with some event or thought that I can’t let go of until I work it out on paper. I also pray regularly and have found it meaningful personally to journal my prayers at times when I want to have a record of my communications with God. Usually these are done in the middle of the night when I can’t turn my mind off and get up to seek enlightenment or simply a quietness of emotion that comes from detailing and working through whatever keeps my mind so occupied that sleep won’t come easily. It would never do to make any of these writings public. My blog and Facebook page, however, involves a different type of writing and one that I very much want to share.

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