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Should You Burn Your Diaries?
I still keep a journal, and I don't think I want anyone to read it. And yet I gasped when I read the first line of Dominique Browning's thought-provoking piece in the New York Times: "I just burned 40 years’ worth of diaries."
An admitted snoop, Browning writes, "I didn’t want anyone else reading my diaries, ever," and, "Diaries are irresistible." She makes it sound so simple. She doesn't want her grown sons to read her private papers. So she destroys the papers. Easy. Done.
Why do we keep writing these things, if we really, really, really don't want anyone to read them? Browning astutely describes the act of keeping a diary as a form of "self-soothing." And I think there's another, sneaky motive hiding there. When most of us think of someone reading our diaries in the future, we don't really think of our children; we think of some blurry person of posterity, some spectral version of ourselves, our legions of imaginary unborn fans. In a way, maybe I was writing my childhood diary for the same reason I was keeping it locked—the invented idea that someone, somewhere wanted to read it.
More on journaling:
Another writer considers burning her diaries
A peek into Oprah's journals
Susan Sontag's hidden diaries
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