Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Reader's Journal & a few thoughts on privacy

In October 1995, I started keeping a reader's journal. Each book I read, I'd fill in the title, author, date I finished the book, and write a brief review of what I thought. This wasn't intended to be particularly personal, I more just wanted to keep a record of what I was reading. I kept up the practice until the end of 2008. What stopped me? Technology. I had discovered Good Reads, which I enjoyed using as a way to keep a handy list of books I wanted to read. I also enjoyed seeing what my friends were reading and found it a handy way to search for things.

Recently, I thought that I should add to my Good Reads the books that were in my journals. I dug them out of the basement and started entering them. My idea was to type in exactly what I had written, but in the end I just gave it a star rating based on my thoughts. I just didn't feel comfortable posting online for anyone to read, something I had written 10 years earlier in a private place. What was executed as just a record keeping exercise ended up being more personal. I opened up one journal and saw on the first page that I had written my name and address. Immediately, a rush of memory of that apartment. Then the journal itself, a little book I had picked up in a museum shop in Istanbul.

This got me thinking about technology, social networking, journal keeping and privacy. At craft shows, a lot of people tell me "Oh, I have a blog now, I don't keep a journal." "I email on trips, that's like keeping a journal." Has social media replaced journal keeping? Have people lost a place where they can be totally private? Or has their sense of privacy disappeared and people are willing to share everything? I know I definitely censor myself when blogging or tweeting. I also noticed that my Good Reads reviews had become stale compared to what I had written in my books. I no longer am writing details like: Who loaned/recommended the book? What inspired me to read it? Did I cry at the end? Did I read it on a plane at the beginning of a trip? Did I think it was boring?

Flipping through these journals brings back a lot more memories than scrolling through a list on my laptop. I can picture the apartment I lived in, how hot that summer was, or the crazy blizzard we had. In trying to be more efficient, I lost that tangible side of the experience. It's not just about record keeping so I can sort, find, recommend; it also (unintentionally) is a record of what was happening in my life at that time, who I was hanging out with, where I was living.

So, yesterday I decided to continue in a real book, my record of books read. While I think I'll still use Good Reads because there are some aspects of it I enjoy, it's definitely not a replacement for my tangible journals.

I guess today's post is about keeping some kind of record keeping journal, something that's just for you. One that doesn't involve a whole lot of time or effort or purging of emotion, just a little more than a list. Maybe it's new recipes you've tried, movies you've seen, museum exhibits you've visited, it doesn't matter what. These journals will be a surprising peek into your everyday life, and will tell you a lot. While I do love my laptop, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and all these things that connect me to people I would never know otherwise, I do think it's important to have some private space in your life, some thoughts that are just for you.


karastefa said...

So true... thanks for writing about this. When blogging, I tend to censor myself too and the audience is often a consideration; fun for what it is, but not super intimate. A private journal allows one to dig deeper and peel back more layers, or to just jot something down quickly without a care in the world about who else will read it.

HereBeDragons said...

I can't say that I've ever kept a book or reader's journal, though I know I should have with the number of books I read and my bad memory! I do keep a regular journal, but it's true that with social media, I vent in there less. I write quick notes instead of long, rambling journal entries.

I'm sure the younger generation is more likely to put a lot of information out on the web and not to journal at all. A bit sad.

Kjersten said...

Beautiful post. Thanks.

SCB said...

I'm less good at creative journal keeping than I am at old-fashioned letter writing, which I love, but I know what you mean. When I do look at my workshop journals and the pocket journal I take with me everywhere I remember writing. Perhaps it is the act of writing that is the key: something in the movement of my hand encodes all sorts of other memories in the words. I can tell by the shape of the letters whether I was in a hurry or taking my time, and the little notes and scribbles convey so much more than my keyboard! Hooray for small pages of quiet in our busy lives.

The Daydreamer said...


I just landed on this blog via an Etsy seller, whose name I forget, I'm sorry. Anyway, this is the first post I read and it's lovely. I've never maintained a proper journal but being a writer, I know it feels damn good when you put your thoughts to paper. The output is far richer, that way.

However, I also had a point to add here. Isn't digital journaling a good way to save paper? Just a thought!

By the way, I'm fascinated by bookbinding and I'm just trying to get a sense of how to begin. This blog will be a real help, I feel.