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nebule's avatar

What would you want to happen to your personal journals after you die?

Asked by nebule (16376 points ) March 9th, 2010

I’m currently contemplating arrangements for my possessions and my son in the event of me passing away unexpectedly… (yes that would be making a will then lynne!) and I’m considering what I want to do with all my journals.

I’ve written them since I was 10 years old and plan on doing so until the day I die. They are quite graphic in places and brutally honest. They contain opinions about people and things, that I do not necessarily hold any more and other information that people might find disturbing although perhaps intriguing, fascinating even.

I’ve always thought I would leave them in the hands of my dear sister and friend Ruth and giving her jurisdiction over who to show them to if anyone. But now, when actually committing the idea to paper I’m not so sure. We can never be sure how people are going to take this sort of enlightenment can we? I would hate for there to arise unanswerable questions and for people’s perception of me to be misconstrued. Does it even matter?

I could go on…but I’m rambling so over to you…What would you do?

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21 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Personal journals are repositories for private thoughts and feelings not meant for others to see or hear. If you are unwanting to say certain things to people while you are alive, why would you want to then present your thoughts to people you leave behind without allowing them the opportunity to offer a reply to you? I’d leave instructions to have them destroyed.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’ve left instructions that any personal papers not necessary to setting my estate be destroyed following my death. I’m in a real dilemma with my late wifes papers. I know that there are some papers that she intended to have published (we were writing a book at the time of her death), but there are other papers that she never intended anyone but myself and her girlfriend to see. The trouble is that she never designated which were which and died suddenly. Tentatively, I’m putting her manuscript and drawings in a safety deposit box and specifying in my will that these are not to be displayed or published until a certain period after my death.

Some of my failed attempts at creative writing have already been consigned to the flames. My decorations will be buried with me, all other awards, certificates, etc are to be destroyed upon my death. I have no heirs who might be interested in them. Without descendants, they are just so much clutter. If I had a child to pass them on to, I might think differently.

Lynne, if you’re going to leave those journals to your son, you should include a cover document that explains what you said in the discussion part of this question; that not all of the opinions expressed are those you now hold. These should also be held by the executor of your estate until your son reaches a certain age, as you probably have things in those journals that wouldn’t be appropriate for a young child to read.

Vunessuh's avatar

I don’t keep any journals, but I know that when I die I will have many incomplete and complete screenplays lying around. I hope someone finds them and finishes the job.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I like a signed copy to go to all the fortunate people that had the honor of being commented on:)

escapedone7's avatar

I have destroyed all my written journals and now keep my diary entries on a locked, password protected, private online location. I don’t want anyone to read it, ever. I only use it for therapeutic reasons, to vent and sort my thoughts.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

This question reminds me of several instances where a writer or composer had left instructions that certain works be destroyed upon their death. In some cases their wishes were not followed and works that they never intended to publish were made public. If there are any documents you have that might fall into that category, you should probably destroy them personally rather than run the risk of another person not following your wishes. My “war diaries” fall into this category; there are things I had to do that, although not illegal, I am not proud of and don’t want others (especially some “revisionist” historian) reading.

My great grandfather left a journal of his activities during the Spanish-American War in Philippines. The descriptive language he used, I find embarassing. He was a well-educated man of his time (a US Naval officer) and was expressing racial attitudes that were mainstream opinion at that time; even so, I would not want a non-family member reading them.

@escapedone7 I have less trust of online storage than paper. A motivated hacker can get anything. All it takes is a match to permanently destroy a paper journal.

Teethdemo's avatar

Burn baby burn. You never leave evidence behind. I’ve had my diary for 20 years. It’s going to be kindeling.

CMaz's avatar

My family will find them and become wealthy.

wundayatta's avatar

I never wrote a journal, per se, but I do write a lot—in public—and I don’t really hold anything back. I do have a lot of paper and all my letters from before email, and a whole bunch of pictures and financial records. It is really interesting how much you can learn from financial records—how much gas you use; how much electricity and water; who you wrote checks to. If I ever need to remember something, all I have to do is look back through my check or credit card registers. It’s all there. For almost two decades, now.

Anyway, I always figured a journal was really something you wanted other people to know, and to accept you as you are, but are afraid to tell them. My fear is that no one will be interested in my life. I plan to leave it all to my kids, but I seriously doubt they will do anything. Ironically, they would be the ones to burn it all.

The only record of my life, I think, will be here. But of course I appear in so many places under so many different aliases, that no one would be able to put it all together. I am already diffuse. So I wonder whether my life is interesting enough that anyone would want to read about it. I fear the answer to that question almost more than I fear anything else. It doesn’t matter what the answer is. If positive, I dare not hope lest no one else concurs, and if negative, it confirms my fears and brings me back to depression. How sad is that?

neverawake's avatar

i’ll make sure i die with it.

phillis's avatar

I hope my young daughters will be able to refer to them for both inspiration and as a guide for what not to do. I already started writing journals just for them with thoughts, ideas and instructions on how to handle a myriad of pitfalls in case of my early demise before they are grown. It includes many thoughts on perspectives in life, and how you ultimately create your own way. My errors are highlighted specifically so that they can learn from my mistakes, why they are mistakes, and what I could have done differently. A lot of it is not about loving yourself and self-forgiveness, but HOW to do those two things. Plus, I intend to put together a CD collection that speaks of all these things. I hope they enjoy it. I have the songs, but haven’t yet burned them.

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here; All mine are going to the Milocalled library…contributions gratefully accepted.

OperativeQ's avatar

Burn ‘em. No one wants to read the shit anyways.

Jude's avatar

I’d give them to my niece.

paintmeblue's avatar

I’d want them published. People need to hear some of the thoughts in my head and I often don’t have the nerve to tell them.

Symbeline's avatar

My journal, an old six year old notebook, pretty much just has random crap and doodles in it, not sure if it means anything, and I guess when I’m dead people can do with it what they will.

absalom's avatar

Hey, @lynneblundell. I know that, like me, you’re a fan of David Foster Wallace. His library and some first drafts and things were just acquired by the University of Texas in Austin, and I’ve been thinking about this issue as well.

Not that I’d ever produce anything worth holding onto, but in any event (i.e. my death) I’d rather have my journals burned or otherwise destroyed. Nothing in them would make much sense to other people, although people would probably have a worse impression of me after reading them.

I don’t have kids, though, so no one could really learn anything from my private writing. Mostly I think that kind of stuff would just sadden my parents.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Never thought about it. I have written journals from my teenagehood and it’s fine if people want to read them. I have electronic journals and the same goes for them.

YARNLADY's avatar

If my memories are found, which is unlikely since they are on a password protected computer site, they should be published for the whole world to see. Why would I care?

nebule's avatar

@absalom had to check out my comments to you for a second there… thought that was rather impressive how you knew that!! lol (I have a bad memory!! do forgive me xx)

I don’t know… I’d like them to be read by someone… even if that was a total stranger… I’m not sure why really… still contemplating this… I’m leaning towards obviously not leaving them to family members and definitely not my son… I write a journal solely intended for him…letter written to him so that anything I do want him to know he will know eventually… but I think a lot of you are right in that respect about people close to you having access to your thoughts from the past once you are gone… can’t quite see how it would be productive… hmmm

edit: unless I knew I was going to die in advance… then I could potentially edit out all the horrible stuff and leave all the good witty stuff for people to read…as a raw account from the horses mouth..that stuff would be interesting… there’s always that option I suppose!

flutherother's avatar

I have kept a diary for 45 years, the first 35 years in paper form and latterly on a PC. I am aware when writing my entries that my children may some day read them so I am a little careful what I put in there. I write mostly for my own amusement and as escapedone7 said above to put my thoughts in order at the end of the day. I don’t mind if they are read or not but I would feel queasy about having them destroyed.

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