Writing about writing: my journals

I first started keeping a daily journal in the summer of 1993. I remember I had this obsessive, unrequited crush on this beautiful young woman at the time, and I didn’t have anywhere else to put all the convoluted feelings I was going through. So I started to scribble them down every day in a notebook. And I just got hooked on the process. Wrote in my journal just about every day for the next 25 years. Until around 2015 when I started to do a lot of writing on the internet, and kind of got hooked on the instant feedback you got on social media, and mostly stopped keeping a journal (though I still carry a notebook around with me everywhere I go to this day, only, I’ve had this particular notebook for a year-and-a-half and I still haven’t finished it).

Over the years I filled up hundreds and hundreds of notebooks with my cursive, hand-written scribbles. I have boxes full of the things stored in my storage locker. I’ve always considered my journals to be my best writing. It’s my purest writing in a way. For I’m not writing for an audience, or trying to be entertaining, I’m just writing out of the pure need to express whatever I happen to be thinking and feeling and experiencing. Though one could probably cull many entertaining books — and maybe even a couple of great movies — from the contents of the notebooks, with the right editing.

I’ve rarely went back and re-read the journals over the years. Though ocassionally I’ll skim across a couple of pages at random. Which sometimes can be a horrifying experience, re-living a painful episode from my past (there’s a lot of that!) or seeing an ugly side of myself (it’s me, warts and all in the journals, with no attempt to charm or sugar-coat). And more than a bit of it is dull and repetitive. A lot of it is just an outlet for me to vent — to yell and scream and curse — like a form of Primal Scream therapy. . .

Sometimes I think I should make a point of going through them all some day, and read the whole lot of them in chronological order. It would probably take me months to read them all. And I suspect it would be a decidedly weird experience — to re-live several decades of my life in real time, and watch how the whole story unfolded over the days, and months and years.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen to the journals after I’m dead. Will they just end up dumped in a dumpster? Or will they live on and be read by future generations? Like a strange time capsule of one man’s personal experiences during a particular time and place in history. . . I have mixed feelings about that prospect. For much of it shows me in an unflattering light. Though ironically that might be part of the appeal, since it’s more “real,” more unvarnished than a lot of writing. It’s me with my pants down, in a way. Sometimes literally. . . If I had any sense I’d probably go through every one of them notebooks with a thick, black magic marker and redact all of the “incriminating” stuff. But in a way, that would defeat the whole purpose of having written them in the first place.

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