“You tend to pick your words more carefully when writing for the world to see, worrying about being judged or hurting someone’s feelings.”
Those words come from an article, “The Power of Daily Writing in a Journal,” published in the January 26, 2016 Wall Street Journal. A friend and blog reader made me aware of the article this afternoon.
When I finally had the chance to sit down and read it, I found myself rereading the sentence quoted above several times. The entire article was interesting, about the experience of a man who has kept a private daily journal for 52 years, but those words struck me hard.
I have learned a lot about myself, about others, about life in general during the last year of my keeping a public daily journal, but one thing that has been difficult for me has been the many times I’ve sat down to write and realized that I had to delete the entry because it would offend someone I care about or be unfairly judged by my readers or cause somebody to feel as though their privacy had been invaded. What I’d written on those days was the thing that I wanted to write about but couldn’t. Because I chose to make my journal public.
On a few occasions, not intentionally, I have teeter-tottered on that line of what is acceptable to put out in public and had to face the consequences of my decision to publish something that seemed innocent enough to me but nonetheless, troubled somebody in my life. In each of those cases, I felt as though I’d handled the subjects carefully but people are people, and by that I mean, we see the world through me-colored glasses. What would be offensive to me may not be to you and vice versa. The way I define privacy differs from the way you define it.
It fascinates me how we all relate to universal themes but we don’t like to be used as the example. It is why most of my posts tell stories of my experience, with the focus on me. Even in that situation, the other people in the story could challenge my portrayal of the experience. And they’d be justified, because my portrayal will always be the way I experienced the event, not the way they did.
When I look to the future, I intend to continue writing for the public through a blog or social media as well as through external publications, but my suspicion is that I will not choose to write a personal journal publicly again. I may write a travel journal or a journal of a specific experience but not an honest this-is-what-is-going-on-for-me-today journal. My hands have felt tied and for me, a journal should be an outpouring of life not the pretense of it.
I’ve tried to keep pretense out of the last 337 days of entries, but often that has meant talking about the ups much more than the downs of my life, which is more palatable but not always what I need to work through in my writing. I intend to continue my daily journal after day 365, but privately instead of publicly.
The journal can be an amazing tool. By dedicating a half hour a day to jotting down their thoughts, people can learn an awful lot about life. Not just what is inside of them but what is outside of them, as well.
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