What is it about people's journal and diaries being exposed after they die? This has kept me from starting one...

Really it's not that I'm hiding anything or that my life is unusually exciting. But still, I'd hate to see it in the news. Today I see an article about the Craigslist woman murdered which includes what she was writing about and that's what got me riled up about this topic all over again.

It happens all the time for famous people. Their diary and letters seem to be put out there as a companion to their works. It is as if this is expected.

So, are families releasing this info? Is that how it would have to work? Because I would have to haunt the hell out of my family if I died as famous or in the news and they released all my personal writings.

Plus, how would you ever feel comfortable writing about family member issues if they might be curled up after your funeral, reading away.

I'm curious about how others feel about this. I'm lately realizing that this has kept me from keeping either a paper or computer journal.

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I agree...

I suppose the short answer is, "after you're dead, you won't care." But I care NOW, when I'm making the journal. I guess that's why I collect inspirational quotes, photos of idyllic scenes, etc. in my journals. Maybe a part of me is afraid to reveal anything too personal because you never know who might be looking -- now, or later.


That is why I don't have a journal. And it's also why I didn't complete Nano this year. Everything I attempted to write seemed too autobiographical.


It's why I periodically have a nice little fire. I like to do a camping trip, re-read and remember, then toss it into the fire page by page.

There are people who are

There are people who are keeping journals, and even blogs, for their descendants. I suppose it's important to know why we keep journals, which will help to determine what goes into them. There are all sorts of reasons for keeping a journal.

that's true

And a good point. I definitely use mine as a vent and rant outlet, so it isn't something that I'm doing for posterity. Things that of more enduring value, I do tend to transfer to my planner. Even those are more for me though - documenting when I had an epiphany or learned an important lesson... Daily planners I have back through college - except for the years when I was solely digital.

Do it on computer and encrypt it

I've posted this elsewhere but make your journal a text file on a computer and password protect it or encrypt it through your choice of methods. I use WinZip. Comes with encryption. Text files leave no temp files. Easy !

encrypting journals

Even easier than using Wincrypt are a couple of free programs on the net. One is called Locknote and the other is Notex. Both use industry standard encryption formulas.

Personally i find Notex the simplest as it resembles Windows Notepad yet scrambles the data when saving it. It was developed by a Canadian geological survey company to securely transfer notes from surveyors in the bush to base.

Wishing my thoughts to remain private when recording them on paper i substitute english letters with the long dead symbols of an earlier civilization (ie Viking runic alphabet).

They are interesting to write, as well as concealing one's thoughts. Also the resultant written page has a certain beauty to it. If one uses the same symbols all the time you quickly become adept at both reading and writing them.

we did that in high school

to pass notes. We got caught in History class one time, and the teacher, who liked to embarrass kids by "reading" the notes and making up the contents, couldn't make head nor tails of it. We got kept after class briefly, but he actually gave the note back and went back to teaching without saying anything!

They're not "uncrackable" code, but we got very adept at it, and I can still read and write it without thinking about it, some 20+ years later.

I lean more toward Tolkein's Elvish scripts nowadays...never really got into runes.

maybe it is a symptom of my youthful pretension

but I have always assumed that my diary/journal would be, if not published, certainly read and possibly studied after my earthly demise. I might be a bit more exibitionist in this respect than others who have posted already, because I don't feel that this has ever stifled my freedom to pour out my rawest feelings, passions, dreams, worries, desires, guilty secrets, et cetera. In fact, in my teens I would frequently address the reader directly, and go back and add editorial footnotes and amendations where I thought readers might need clarification or additional info.

Perhaps what it comes down to is: after you are gone, do you want to leave evidence of who you really were, or do you want to maintain the facade that you presented to the world in life to remain the official version of how you are remembered?

"I used to be indecisive, but now I am not so sure." Roscoe Pertwee

Doesn't bother me in the least

I think old journals are great historical pieces. I don't mind if mine is read after I'm dead. Now my Mother in law does care and she has left instructions with each of her children and me that if she dies to destroy her diaries and not read them. She says hers are not true to life because she vents in them and then is over it. We will all respect her wishes.

re - instructions to destroy diaries after death

Good luck to your MIL on that request. My mother asked me to destroy all of her diaries, unread, after her death. Her husband (my step-dad since I was 9 yrs old) knew that. So after her death, we looked for her diaries, but since I didn't live with her, I had no idea how many she had or where they all were. He found a couple, said "I guess that's all she had," and I destroyed them.

Now, 5 years later, he gives me about 20 of her journals, with many, many pages mysteriously cut out. I have no intention of confronting him, because a person who would do that can't be trusted to tell the truth if confronted, but just FYI for anyone who thinks they can leave instructions like this: Good luck. If you really, really want your journals to be handled in a certain way after your death, keep them all in a safety deposit box and give the ONE person you trust the key to it. Otherwise, everything is up for grabs.

Fear of the unknown keeps millions from living their dreams

I write in my journal nearly every day and perhaps I would not be comfortable knowing my journals would be read on the 10 oclock news. However, I will be gone and my kids would love to know the real Dad. I do have some fairly incriminating stuff in my journals and well, that is the real me.

I suggest that you use your journal in the way that best serves you now and give no thought to how people will talk about you after you die. Your journal entries could bring comfort to someone dealing with an issue you dealt with. Your words could inspire someone to start something scary or stop something stupid in their lives after hearing about how you did it. Your thoughts could prove that you truly are a loving person with faults and defects like everyone else.

Your words may be all your family will have after you go. There is nothing more precious in this world than the inspired words of another. I have been counseled to use paper and I use a journal manufactured by a local Utah company because I like the way they feel in my hand. There is something cold and empty about a computer file, not to mention the fact that one false keystroke and your entire journal is gone forever.

Write. On paper. Every day. Your friends and family will love you all the more.

hear, hear

Beautifully stated.

"I used to be indecisive, but now I am not so sure." Roscoe Pertwee


In my opinion my journals will be the only thing left of me when I die so why not be honest and write all you think or say or do. It is like carrying on a conversation with your loved ones long after you are gone. If I get a bit nasty venting from time to time then at least I'm honest and it is a part of me. Whether or not my family can face that is up to them and not me. If you leave something out just because you are afraid of what someone might think then you are not being honest and true to yourself. It is like taking a shower with your underwear on because you're afraid someone might see you. It is pretty silly and pointless. Besides no one is perfect and I'm sure your family would enjoy knowing your faults and thoughts more than they would enjoy a clean, polished, overly rosy, depiction of your life.

So I agree with you Ted and I'm glad you are leaving an honest journal behind for your kids to remember you by.

painful to even consider

I write in my journal infrequently, usually when life is going poorly. About once a year I consider tossing or burning them. Even though they have survived so far, although the cat peed on one, I will destroy them before I die.

The comments in this thread have been intriguing. I distrust any and all published journals. For me journals are intensely private. A place to vent, sort my thoughts or work thorough issues. Reading someone's private journal feels like spying. Therefore I have never done so except as a class assignment.

Perhaps my attitude will change as I grow older but, for now, the thought of another person with my journals is exceedingly painful.

An ADD pastor in search of structure....but enjoying a certain level of chaos!

This from a pastor?

"I will destroy them before I die."

Wow, as a pastor, you of all people should know the folly of this statement. Who among any of us knows when they will die?

Why is anyone afraid to let others see what they wrote after they die? Is it embarrassment? You can't be embarrassed when you're dead! Is it fear of being caught at something? There are no (earthly) repercussions when you're dead! And any non-earthly repercussions will happen anyway, whether someone reads your writings or not.

If you really think about it, there is nothing to fear - except for needlessly complicating your life by stifling yourself and your feelings through not writing them down.

I think one fear people have is hurting people they love

I think most people vent in their journals. Some of the things people write in their journals could hurt their loved ones. I am careful not to vent in mine but I know my mother in law uses hers primarily to vent on a regular basis which is the reason she has asked us to destroy hers when she dies. She doesn't want any of her living loved ones to be hurt by her journals. She loves us enough that she doesn't want us hurt by her words or for our memory of her to be tainted by her words. As she told me. She vents and then is over it, her journals are not a true reflection of her feelings of people only a representation of snapshots of her ever changing emotions that she cannot express aloud.

Or ...

I cannot "road test" this link from work, so I hope it works.

A bit called "Just 5 Minutes" by a Canadian comedy troup called "The Frantics". If it does not deliver the proper info, I will backfill.

[edit]: OK, it does not complete the joke.

Guy at the Pearly Gates, talking to St. Peter. Pleading to be allowed to go back for "Just 5 Minutes". When St. Peter asks why, the answer is "To erase my hard drive." After a lengthy pause, St. Peter says "OK" to thunderous applause from the audience.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

What is sad about this, is

What is sad about this, is that I have read a bit of my mother's diaries, and she lies to herself in them. So that is maybe something to guard against... how honest are you really being with yourself in your journaling?

How honest indeed

On the other hand, how many diaries and journals have been sanitized or destroyed after a person's death simply because there were family, stature or societal considerations in play?
There have been times I felt more connected to someone or the times they lived in through their diary because of a particularly honest entry. I don't like my history sanitized, but I could understand why someone would not want some things in the public realm.
I think everyone has the right to do as they please with their words, but I think this is a good discussion to have.

how honest

I tend to be brutal on myself, at least to the extent I know myself. Which is another reason I don't want them read.

Well that and some of the idiotic things I have written would cause me to blush from the grave!

My parents had to deal with it

My mother married a widower, and together they read and destroyed all his dead wife's journals. They decided that there were "uncomplimentary" things in there about my younger brother (son of step-dad and deceased wife, taken on by my mother). I about cried. For the woman I never met. She wrote all those volumes, and her son would never get to know who she really was.

When my mother asked me what she should do with my journals, if I pre-decease her, I told her to lock them in the safe for at least a year before reading them, but don't just destroy them. I've been writing them since I was 6 years old, and have accumulated an entire box; my whole life. Why should they be destroyed because I maybe said not nice things while I was pregnant and unhappily married? If anyone thinks life is like a fairy tale, then they've missed something pretty crucial.

And my little brother has an incredibly distorted view of his mother: She's not real...she's a saint.

I would personally add

I would personally add dispositions in my will that would indicate exactly what I want to be done with my journal(s). The person chosen to execute your final wishes should also be aware of what you want them to do with your journal(s).

You can all read my journals

You can all read my journals when I am gone! I have no earthly idea why any of you would want to read them, but I really won't give it much thought then. And I make it a point not to give much thought now to who sees what then.


I don't think I would mind

except for the fact that my earlier ones are extraordinarily dull. I really have nothing to hide, and I like the idea of someone reading one of my journal entries and saying, "she really did get it, didn't she." That's all ego, admittedly, but we wouldn't be human without it.

If you REALLY want to keep a diary and REALLY don't want to have anyone read it after you die, you could put a provision in your will (if/when you have one). You can pretty much make any request (within reason) in a will and it's legally binding as long as it's executed and probated properly.

Journals and wills

Imagine all the fun one could have with a will and the conditions for keeping or reading diaries and journals.

The person making the will wouldn't be around to see it but they could create all kinds of mischief for dull relations who don't appreciate journal writing.

For example, Ms Journaller could leave her estate and her journals to Mr Annoying Relative on the condition that the journals are kept unread and in good condition until 1 year after Ms Journaller's death. If the journals are read too early, destroyed or thrown away ... all the money would be taken off Mr Annoying Relative and go to local journal writers. :)

OK, I wouldn't do that but thinking about doing it is fun.