Personal,  Writing

Journaling is a Waste of Time if You Don’t Keep Your Journals

Last night as I sorted through my files to prepare them for long-term archival, I stumbled upon some journal entries I had written between 10 and 20 years ago. I had tossed them into a random folder at some point when trying to recover data from a dying system and had forgotten about them.

Unable to resist, I took a walk down Memory Lane as I perused those old files. Some of them were from the very first Windows computer I had ever owned, stored in plain text because I didn’t own a word processing program at the time.

I realized something important as I read those ancient entries. While I have been journaling from the moment I learned how to write as a child, those are the oldest journals I still possess. All of the other notebooks and other formats I have used over the course of my life have long been lost or discarded.

What is the point in keeping a journal if you don’t hold onto the entries? How can you discover the changes you have made if you can’t hold on to the records?

Absolutely none.

I realized that I wasted countless hours of my life creating journal entries that were eventually discarded. The only exception to this sad reality are the scattered text files I used to create quick journal entries over the years as I sat at the computer.

Computer journaling may not be perfect but for me it seems to be the only method that survives the test of time. I don’t like to keep physical things long-term if I don’t use them and sometimes paranoia has inspired me to burn my old paper journals. I store my deepest, darkest secrets in my journal entries so I have always been more than a bit paranoid about someone discovering them. No one touches my personal computer files, however, and a zipped archive protected with a password has worked wonders for my comfort level.

This discovery has made me realize that the best way for me to preserve my journal entries is to save them on the computer. As much as I love the feel of placing pen to paper, that method is far too transient for my needs.

I intend to take advantage of that discovery with the upcoming decade. From that point forward, all of my journaling endeavors will be written in plain text and filed away. In the event that I feel the urge to use paper and pencil I will scan those documents, convert them to PDF files, and destroy the originals.

Do you journal? If you prefer to hand-write your journal entries, how do you store them? Are you ever worried that someone will discover them? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

7 Comments

  • Linda Sand

    I’ve always been paranoid that someone would read my journals so I destroy them. It never occurred to me I could put my online ones in a protected file. I’ll have to research how to do that. Thanks for teaching me something new once again.

    • Annie

      I just put them in a password-protected zip file when I’m feeling paranoid. I don’t place my journal entries in the cloud any longer since my tinfoil hat causes me to be a bit paranoid. My standard procedure is to keep my journal entries on a password-protected computer, backing them up to CD and DVD at least annually. I name the discs something boring so that no one suspects what’s on them and keep the discs stashed away. When I had others who shared a computer with me, I would burn a Puppy Linux disc–it’s a version of Linux that allows you to boot from the disc and save your files back to the disc with every session. You can do that with thumb drives…or even just save your journal entries to a thumb drive that you keep stashed away. I saw a beautiful thumb drive once that was disguised as a charm bracelet. Few things have tempted me as much as that bracelet. One of these days I may allow myself the splurge 🙂

  • John Grebe

    Yes I have been keeping an occasional journal for close to a decade. For me it is more of a cross between a spiritual journal, personal growth record and positive inspiration journal mixed into one. Basically it contains a mix of personal insights, highlights of meaningful conversations with people when the conversation or remarks in it stand out as especially insightful type thing. My journal is currently in a single plain text file with minimal markup for emacs org-mode (an old Linux text editor). Basically it is a future proof text file but with with headlines that I can effortlessly expand and contract to make it more manageable and includes export options such as to HTML with auto generated table of contents. (If you want I can explain more of how it works.) I agree with you that keeping a journal is a waste of time if you not only keep your old journals but also if you do not review them. As not reading them for practical purposes is not any different from not keeping them.

    • Annie

      OMG John, emacs! While I’m not very familiar with emacs, I’ve used Vim for years. I find it immensely easier to work with large text files in that program and prefer the lack of distraction when I open a Shell in Linux to write. I tend to use Markdown for my formatting because I’ve grown comfortable with it over the years. The markup reminds me of the old markup in WordStar, the very first word processing program I ever used. I’ve not explored folding very much, though I gather it can be quite handy. There is supposed to be a way to fold Markdown text in Vim but I’ve yet to try it. I just search through the document when I need to find a particular heading.

      Considering my luck with physical journals, I do believe that keeping a journal in plain text may be the best way to go for me. They are definitely easier to store and access.

      • John Grebe

        Interesting, I tried numerous text editors that claimed to have extensions to enable folding in MarkDown but I was never able to get them to work when I tried them out. Had I gotten them to work I probably would have stuck with that instead of Emacs, as the ability to have nested folding sections in a single plain text file was the main reason that I settled for emacs for org-mode because the folding works by default.

  • Tammara L Mills

    I’ve tried both paper and ejournaling. I prefer paper. To be honest? Good freaking luck deciphering my handwriting! lol I’m not concerned about people seeing who I was because that isn’t who I am. I am constantly ‘evolving’ and who I was isn’t who I am now. This is both good and bad because I can see aspects of me that I wish I could have kept and others that I wish had died sooner. I think this is the reason that I can handle and accept a Time Lord regeneration. Yes, that *was* me but it’s not anymore. I’ve moved on. I’m different now but still me.

    My issue with online journaling comes from it not being as personal? Idk… I just prefer paper I think. Besides, with as many issues as I have had with my devices, paper lasts longer with me and my writing is naturally encrypted. hehe Never could get an “A” in writing class!

    • Annie

      Hello, Tammara.

      One word: backups. I burn all of my old digital journals to disc several times a year as a precaution. It’s annoying to lose stuff when a gadget dies.