How many of you journal?

How many of you reread your journals?

If you reread your journals, do you read them as an author or as a reader?

I guess I’m trying to ask, how do you look at your own work? Are you critiquing yourself? Or are you wondering how you could write something so stupid? Or are you wondering how you could have written something so brilliant?

I never reread my journals. The closest I come is by having those “Five Year Question A Day” journals, and I look back at my answers to the prior years- I just started a new one this year, so I have nothing to look back on at the present, and to be fair, I rarely notice any real epiphanies when looking over my answers. Mostly these books bring back memories, both good and bad.

But I know I revisit my past as the author of those moments, those thoughts, those feelings…I am very attached to my moments and I own them.

But what if I looked at my transcriptions of years past as a reader? Would I look at them differently?

What is the difference between looking at things as an author and as a reader?

Are readers able to take a detached air? Are authors as readers too involved in the story?

or

Am I making something out of nothing and do people read things that exact same way, neither as a reader nor a writer but just as an individual?

How do you read your own writing?

71 thoughts on “Author or Reader

  1. I don’t think you’re wrong at all with the difference between writer and reader. I don’t journal, but I often note things – but I find the act of writing helps me cement the thing in my memory and I don’t then have to look back over it. The notes I write aren’t intended for a reader, so I don’t read them as one.

    Of course, whenever I do happen to glance back, I quickly realise the insight and wisdom is more than the human race is ready for and immediately destroy the notes. Yes, that’s definitely it… Great post!

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  2. Depends upon what you mean by ‘journal entries’. For myself, I do the Artists’ Way Morning Pages(MPs) thing in my ‘journals’…and I occasionally pick up older MPbooks and read entries from a year or two ago on the current day’s date. Just to see if there’s anything that’s changed – for better or worse, it doesn’t matter. Usually I get a broader picture of my current frustrations/project progressions/goals/dreams/life/etc status when I do this…I am one who feels my life slogs through molassas to get anywhere I want to go – this occasional reading past entries helps me to see I do indeed make progress and am going somewhere in my life…
    I also keep what I call a ‘Creative Book’ type of journal where I’ll explore actual writing, poetry, music etc. Those often help me recall ideas and/or keep me on track with developing ideas etc. Totally different from MPs and/or traditional journaling.

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    1. I have a broad definition of journals, as I know everyone has their path and there are multiple definitions. Seeing if you’ve made progress is good as long as you view it with an eye that any progress is good, and just because things didn’t go exactly as planned doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing

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  3. I don’t write a journal. I reread what I write on my blog, but only occasionally. For the most part I’d say that as a writer and as a readeer I’m the same regardless of which hat I’m wearing.

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  4. I don’t usually read what I wrote (as far as my blog). But I had pulled out old journals sporadically and reread them. Some I actually threw away…what was I thinking??? And would I want someone to read that after I die??? LOL

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  5. I’ve been recently re-visiting old posts, it brings back memories some happy some sad but it’s nice to remember how far I’ve come.
    And yes, I am critical of my work, but then I’m a typical virgo!

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  6. I am a reader when I read my journals or articles I have written. I journal pretty much every day. This year I am reading last year day by day just to compare. I strive for growth, improvement, or just for comparison for fun. As a reader I am sometimes surprised by my insights – accidental I am sure but fun none the less.

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  7. Journals –

    If the journal was used with a particular Bible study I usually keep it with the book (or I tear out the pages, staple them & tuck inside the cover.

    But at other times I keep my “regular” journals for a while and then throw them away. Having read excerpts from my Grandma’s diary that she wrote during the last months of her life, I never want my kids to feel that kind of stabbing pain.

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  8. One recommendation to authors in the writing-a-book process is to let the work rest and return to it with fresh eyes. This experience has allowed me to reorganize more, but I still seem (annoyingly) to see everything from about the same mindset as it was written -other readers of the same, however, profess they don’t understand, got lost, etc.

    The moral of this answer may be that I need to ‘rest’ my writings for at least a decade. 🤷‍♀️ Or, maybe we can go with a consolation that progress moves more slowly as an adult, with slight improvements.

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  9. No journals anymore, I just journal in my own head! And that’s all part of that “let’s overthink everything” habit I have. I will go back and read blog posts on occasion, usually when I get a new follower, like with this Bloganuary thing. I impress myself sometimes, with my wit and focus. I do regret not keeping the blog I had as a student in college. I think I posted some of my research there and I’d love to go back and read some of that, first as a reader, then to critique everything I didn’t really know at the time!

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    1. I think there’s value in rereading. Occasionally I’ll notice an old post getting reread and I’ll look at it…I’m often amazed at how good some posts are and how bad others are…😆

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  10. A timely question. I have kept a journal since 1970 and now face the daunting task of what to do with them. I recently cleared the attic and moved everything into the garage with the intention of sorting through the boxes and letting things go. I am leafing through journal pages in no particular order, cringing, grieving, laughing. It’s awful. This process will take me a long time, but the journals are going in the dustbin. No one else should be subjected either to having to read them or shouldering the job of getting rid of all of them.

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  11. I don’t like re-visiting the past and yet I don’t want to let it go either. It’s a conundrum that making a lot of work means having a lot of stuff to cope with. I still haven’t figured it out. But to your question, I view journal writing as completely different than writing for others. If I am sharing the written word I critique it heavily. If it’s my thoughts, I view them like looking at an old photo. I do enjoy re-reading older written work that was intended for others. I am never not editing it though. If I see a way it could be improved I want to do that.

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  12. I journal a lot. I have several that I use all the time. I have morning pages journal that I write in every morning (or I should say most mornings), I have a ”studio yearbook” that is like a journal and then I have a personal journal. I do reread them but more to see if I can find out what was happening at a certain time or to just relive the year but I don’t read them to critique them. I have saved them but not sure that I’d want others to read them at least not until I’m gone.

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  13. I only reread vacation journals and I view them as both a reader and an author. I view the critique as an opportunity to improve my writing. Since I do not read my daily journals, I do all my journaling via an app as I do not want stacks of journals gathering dust.

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  14. I follow “The Artist’s Way” and I do three pages of a brain dump every morning before I get out of bed. I never reread it, even though the instructions at times tell you to. I throw away the journal when it’s full. As for my other writing, I look back at some things occasionally, I see ways to edit and improve what I’ve written before. I’m also interested in what I was going through or feeling at the time I wrote it.

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  15. I just finished rereading seven years’ worth of online journals from 2005-2012. It was a very cringeworthy experience that took me six months to slog through (I was apparently a very prolific journaler back in the day). Anyway. I approached them as a reader, but it’s impossible to completely separate yourself as a reader from yourself as an author, even if your life has changed dramatically since those entries were first written. I laughed, I cried, I cringed…admired some good prose, wanted to slap my former self for some less-than-stellar words and thoughts. It was both an eye-opening and humbling experience, but one I’m glad I was able to partake in.

    Next up: nine year’s worth of blog posts. Not exactly in a hurry to dive into all that…

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      1. Actually, yes. It was immediately evident that I have matured emotionally in the intervening years, for starters. I’m much more open-minded and tolerant than I was back then. I have also grown more confident in my writing abilities and am much less likely to settle for anything. This was all good to see!

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  16. I guess I’m a little weird compared to most. I don’t often reread my diaries, except from much younger years. I may also check through them to get a timeline straight, figure out a “mystery charge” on my credit card, etc. Sometimes I write some stuff that cracks me up, and once in awhile I share an anecdote from my diary on the blog. You know, David Sedaris makes a living doing this. Wish I could!

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  17. “How do I read my own writing?” By bribing myself with chocolate – but then I’m on the fifth and final draft of a writing project. Seriously, I never re-read any old journals, but I do sometimes glance back in my Five Line Five Year diary, to see what I was doing this time last year, or to check an important date. Otherwise I have no interest I guess, but I have re-read the diary I kept when I was eleven and it was a hoot!

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  18. As an author, I occasionally read my own work; I may criticize it due to spelling errors or punctuation errors, but I do return to it to make corrections. And sometimes, as a reader, I read my own work; it looks new to me and speaks to me as if I were not the one who wrote it.

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  19. I believe as a writer I critique myself harsher than others probably would. I don’t journal, I don’t ever want others to read what I have felt on that particular day. I’m trying to write a book, my first book and I go back and read what I have written as an outsider and then I read it as an author and both types of critiques differ.

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  20. I’m at the end of The Artist’s Way, and one of the activities this week was to read through eight weeks of our Morning Pages (journaling). I could only get through five pages or so, because it was so depressing. I was reading it as a reader, and I even had to laugh at myself because I thought, if I didn’t know it was me, I’d suggest this person seek some help. Anywho, if it’s journaling, I read as a reader.

    Anything else, I read as a writer and an editor.

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  21. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal the past few months, on the advice of a coach, I was sceptical at first, but it’s working well. Nothing creative, not even extended writing, though I wonder if it might produce some insights.

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    1. I like mine because it allows me to put all my thoughts both good and bad in the late and out if my head. That being said, I can barely read my handwriting so there’s no insight post journal

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  22. Rarely do I go back and read old journal entries or posts, but when I do I believe I read them as a reader, and I’m amazed at the insights they have to offer. I’m working on repurposing a dozen or so old posts for a book I’m working on, so recently I’ve been revisiting my work. As a writer I’ve changed rather dramatically, but my philosophy seems to stay on point. Hugs, C

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  23. I’ve never really kept journals or diaries. Now that I’ve finally “seriously” started writing, I can see why I like the way memoir is defined by the instructor from whom I received the most instruction because she said it was how I remembered events. I noticed in rereading a recent post that what I wrote about a trip is obviously not correct in how it happened but makes sense in how I want to remember it. Maybe that’s an example of reading as author vs as reader?

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts here, as well as those of others. They are more food for thought for me as I try to decide if I want to start journaling now, or just limit my journaling to what I actually write with the though of actually publishing it somewhere for others to critique or enjoy/learn from. What a conundrum!

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    1. I don’t know if you read me of my recent posts called memories…it’s basically about how we remember. One commenter said that we remember the emotions more than the incident. I thought that was pretty astute

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