The Role of Private Journaling in the Age of Life Online

"I’ve been keeping a diary for 33 years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. "That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996,” I’ll say to someone.”

- David Sedaris

Journaling - aside from writing when others may see it - has been a passion of mine since I was younger. I’ve kept track of my relationships, food, money, thoughts on formal schooling, reactions to social media, skin problems, stream of consciousness nonsense - you name it - all in an attempt to self-articulate and find patterns.

Since I’ve started blogging, my journaling practice has gone down hill significantly. 

This makes me wonder:

  • Does blogging publicly fulfill the same internal needs?
  • Do I have more profound realizations in a private journal?
  • If I find my past journals embarrassing, will my public business blog seem embarrassing someday as well?

Private Journals: Just for Emotional Times?

First of all, I don’t have as many personal issues to sort through as I did in my teens and twenties. Whew!

I used to journal out of desperation when my head could literally think of nowhere else to go

Luckily, I haven’t felt those feelings in awhile. 

Maybe it’s just growing up, or maybe I’ve had a lucky streak filled with decent relationships.

Badge of Pain, aptly inspired by a crappy relationship.

Either way, this contorts my journals into a trail of sad times, a mere glimpse into an otherwise full, satisfying, and dare I say - amused and even happy existence. 

That being sad, I don’t think my journals will ever serve as some historical record so maybe I should just burn some of them. (Thoughts? Have you ever burned journals?)

Time Constraints and Content Production

Given the time I put into blogging, it feels like a real treat when I sit down sans technology with a journal and a pen somewhere  beautiful outside. It has a sacredness to it that can’t be matched by taking notes on a phone or taking notes in a Google Doc. I’m a busy person wanting to blog weekly though, so of course my journaling moments receive the chopping block first.

In my old writing days, I used to journal daily. Then, at the end of filling a journal, I'd read it and highlight lines that could be turned into songs. This made my song-writing personal and emotional. But it was like a big event or sense of accomplishment to finish a journal and "go mining."

Now, since I write history-based songs, I research on the computer and need references to past links and information as part of my writing process. I literally keep track of song ideas on a Google Doc in order to write old-timey tunes! (However, I bet you can guess what happens when I open the computer to write songs. It doesn’t take long to become distracted by something else!)

Sharing a Journey Publicly

I’ve heard it said by business experts and psychologists alike - if anything super emotional happens to you, it’s a good idea to not share it publicly online for at least a month until you’ve gathered yourself together, processed what it means for you (not an audience), and gained some sense of perspective and distance from the event.

I really respect this (and it’s definitely my default mode), but as I’ve become more active on social media for the chance to grow as a writer and musician, I’ve noticed that most of the people able to grow followings and resonate with others look as if they share almost everything. Of course, this is probably a distorted perspective full of projection (as I envy their boldness - oftentimes even more than what they've done). And if I follow them long-term, chances are they still put time into making information tactful and helpful to others.

When it Comes to Money and Business...

People who publicly share otherwise private information really pique my interest. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

When someone offers the numbers behind their real-estate adventures, business attempts, or monthly budget - I’m hooked by the act as much as I am by the information itself. How do they do that? How do they just… talk about themselves? It’s an art. I’m studying it.

As we try to learn and gather at a more rapid pace than ever, do we think private information puts us on a fast track to knowledge and success. Or are we just nosey? With a window into the worlds of people who create anonymously, with no shame, or with dutifully earned bragging rights, we often put down our own journals and start sharing right along.  

  • But what is modesty?
  • Does it work in business?
  • What is true celebration?
  • What - if anything - becomes more valuable if it’s left out of view?

I clearly do not know. What I do know - is silence keeps you stuck.

As you can probably tell, my past few blog posts have taken on more of a private and reflective vibe . I’m about to go on a public voyage with my Etsy printables and low content publishing in an attempt to raise money for my music. However, I still have an underlying wave to my psyche that’s pretty passionate about certain journals staying offline. I’m looking forward to creating them and buying them... from myself. 

Do you still keep some of your writing private as an adult? Or do you put it all out there and recommend I do the same?



4 Replies to “The Role of Private Journaling in the Age of Life Online”

  1. hey, i liked your song. because you asked the question most of my writing is just boring finance stuff. i try my best to spice it up with some tasteless humor but the posts that seem to get the most attention are the personal ones like a rant or strong opinion. if it were up to me folks would read the investing content more closely as malevolent missy and i try to prove the “experts” wrong. it’s working out well so far.

    i can surely see value in a private journal. i think it’s too late in my 50’s as most of the good lurid stuff has already happened. most of those details are fading but maybe lack of evidence is best.

    1. I think you keep it as interesting as possible even when it is boring finance stuff. I agree – posts that get the most attention in this space are often vulnerable but not exactly technical. I love private journaling. Even the other day I took time to write my second son’s birth story down in a journal just for myself. It felt good and authentic to do so – not worry about how it may be presented to others but do it for my own psychological analyzation. I like the idea of Julia Cameron’s morning pages – 20 minutes for the self.

  2. A nice read. I’ve never journaled, but now wish I did, particularly when I was younger. I imagine my blog is the closest I’ve ever come. I have written some articles that I’ve not published and more recently some personal creative writing exercises that will also remain private.

    In any event, I’d never destroy a journal if I did have one, it’s just not in my constitution to do so. I don’t place much value on material things, but something like that I could never get rid of.

    1. I think journaling is interesting when it comes to song writers – some writers use it to mine for ideas and others like you must efficiently skip to the writing. I think of a blog as a journal, but I still find I am myself in a private journal. Creative writing exercises are what I would like to try most on maternity leave. I don’t think I will destroy my journals – even though some are embarrassing beyond beleif!

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