Writing For No One

Writing is something I do in private, but everything I write is public, or at least destined to be.

I’ve never been much of a diary keeper, even though I love to buy journals and notebooks. A personal chronicle of the day-to-day events of my life would be pretty boring, even to me. There have been some periods in my life where I journalled every day but even these are largely story ideas, or adolescent obsessions I’d just as soon forget.

If I was going to write a diary, it would probably something like this blog, a chronicle of what I was thinking about at a particular time. The entries are certainly of a time, some tied specifically to current events, others just to my own thoughts. But more often than not I’m trying to write these posts for an audience, to share my reflections, or to spark some conversation. There’s nothing particularly private about this sort of writing, even if it can occasionally feel intimate.

Some authors have letters that are only released after they die, but I am definitely a product of my generation when it comes to long form communication. “The Letters of Ben Trube” would be a pretty thin volume, and would probably need a lot of pictures to reach a publishable length. I haven’t written an honest to God letter in years, and most e-mail I write is for work, or quick blurbs to nail down the evening’s details with “The Little Red Haired Girl.”

Fundamentally it comes down to this:

I don’t write something if I don’t intend for someone to read it.

I’m not sure if I need writing that is just for myself, but it is something I wonder about. So much of our lives these days are lived publicly. There are definitely parts of my life that are private, but the only way they’ll stay that way is if they stay in my head.

My Dad does Bible study every morning, and he writes in a notebook his thoughts on the passage, often following questions from a particular Bible study or his own thoughts and prayers of the moment. I have never read these journals, and I’m not even sure if Dad goes back to them after he’s written them, but this is a form of writing that is certainly private. I’ve tried similar practices myself but I tend to stop quickly as they seem like too much work to try to fit into my already busy life. I don’t mind talking about scripture but somehow writing about it in the morning is too much work, even though writing is something that flows more naturally.

I don’t know if it’s that I’m engaging different parts of my brain, or just taking more time to stop and think, but writing is more natural to me than talking. I seem like a rational and reasonable human being on the page, even if I can be quite irascible in real life. A Bible study would seem like the perfect sort of writing to do in private, but even there I know I would have the temptation to share my thoughts of a particular morning with all of you, and pretty soon it would be just another source of fuel for the blog.

As you may have guessed I don’t have an answer right now, as seems to be the case with a lot of these sorts of reflective posts. About the only thing I can commit to is the desire to try new patterns, new routines and types of writing. I don’t feel like I’m missing something by not having private writing, but at the same time I wonder about it.

What do you guys think? Do you keep journals, writing only for yourself?


Filed under Faith + Life, Writing

7 responses to “Writing For No One

  1. I do not keep a journal but each time i write,i would hope that someone would read it and express their opinion.

  2. I can relate. There are many times throughout my life in which I’ve tried to keep a journal. It never lasts long for several of the reasons you’ve stated. I do write every day and in a journal, but it’s mostly stories and ideas.

  3. I kept a diary for about a week during my junior high days. Then, a “friend” found and read it and told everyone at school about it. She and I became instant rivals and I never kept a diary again.

    I write my stories for myself, but love sharing them with others – and love when they love them as much as I do.

  4. I have kept a personal journal, more or less daily, since 2003.

    As you suggested, my day-to-day life is fairly boring. But I’ve found the journal very useful as a reference – a way to look up when I did such-and-such, or where I was on a certain date, or what I was working on. Also, I’ve found that many details that seem mundane when they happen turn out to be interesting five or ten years later, when you look back and say “Oh yeah! I forgot all about that!”

    Journal aside, there’s another reason to write something nobody else will ever read: it helps me think. Countless times, when trying to solve a problem on the AI (or the novel), I’ve found that writing out my thoughts – both the problem and possible solutions – clarifies my thought process enormously. I think writing demands more precision than just thinking, and it also highlights certain possibilities that remain murky when they’re purely mental.

  5. The last journal I kept was a dream journal, which was fortunate because it shows proof of one precognitive dream. In June, I had a dream in which I spoke to my aunt’s intern, Rich, up in NY, and he told me that he had been commissioned for an art project involving 500 pieces. He had hired a team to execute his design for this, but the communication had gotten messed up and it was two weeks before he found out that the whole batch was done wrong. I remember getting an image of a garden ornament.
    A month later, I actually went up to NY to visit my aunt and uncle. Rich came in and started telling me about this project he had been commissioned to do, 500 pieces, an array of lights to be displayed in a garden, solar-powered. The communication with his team leader had gotten mixed up and he didn’t know for two weeks that the whole thing was ruined. I showed Rich in my journal where I had written this all down a month before.

  6. I fell in love with keeping a diary when I was around 10 years old – it was a place to keep all my private thoughts and work out the millions of prepubescent feelings that had taken over my mind and heart. My Mom found my diary in the little crevice where I had hidden it. I have dozens of journals that I have kept over the years. Journals for gratitude, dreams, personal goals, short stories etc. Writing has been my bliss for as long as I can remember and I’ve only just now begun to share publicly at the age of 50! For me the whole point of writing is connecting and having interactions with people that I would otherwise have no opportunity to be in contact with.

  7. I have a diary. I only write in it when I am royally pissed off at someone, which means that my progeny is probably going to think I was one heinous harpy…

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