There are few downsides to keeping a journal, but there are some, and you can find them the hard way or skip over the distress of knowing that yermom is still in possession of your third grade journal.

Journals should be on paper. Sure, you’re a speedy typist and you like to sprinkle symbols and illustrations in your journal, but print it if you are serious about having a record rather than another bubble of ephemera. The first law of computing–computers crash.

Journals should be informal, but not too informal. Don’t be pompous. You are writing for yourself here, most likely no one else will ever be interested enough to read about what you ate for breakfast on Groundhog’s Day, in fact, Future You will probably not be very interested in how the sausage was, either. The only thing worse than reading about other people’s routine meals is reading their haughty complaints about such things. Somebody tell the recipe bloggers, please!

Journals should have at least one purpose. What are you recording? Your mental health struggles? Your progress toward finding the ultimate cure for boredom? Learning to cook vegetables? All the things your dog should not have eaten?

Journals should not be incriminating. Don’t record hostilities or other people’s secrets or things that you would not be willing to discuss publicly. You might want to make references to something for your own recollections, in which case, do not be specific, e.g. “Today the thing with the stuff happened again.” If you keep a list of all the times your neighbor has woken you up with their singing, just scratch “Sang at 4 a.m. again.” You know what you mean and if you don’t, that’s okay too. If your record was “Bozo Boatfelder woke me up again at 4 a.m. and now I want to kill him even more,” well, clearly you are risking big trouble when Bozo wakes up dead.

Form a journal habit. Don’t be like tiny me and leave a string of unfinished stories and half-assed projects. Finding a story that ends with: “Things could only get better for the giraffe, except they actually…” I’m not sorry I burned any of that stuff, however. It deserved all the flames!

Keep the journals secure. You don’t have to lock them up, which only increases their allure, but do put them somewhere that’s not likely to inspire curiosity. Marking them “genealogy records” may keep them safe for a very long time. “Failed cookie recipes” might also be safe for keeping them in plain sight. You know your snoops best.

Since you have already avoided incriminating yourself, you may wonder why I suggest the safe keeping. Your journals might provide fodder to people who are trying to control you. It doesn’t matter what their mission is in this case, maybe they mean well, or whatever, but don’t make it easier for your kids to figure out how to get you to move into the home. Or whatever.

Flag some passages for yourself when you are down in the dumps. It can be amazing to read old diaries on a bad day, but it can be tricky if you are too self-critical. Reading about your feelings during a previous struggle can make you appreciate how hard you worked or how brave you have been. Tremendous encouragement can be passed from Former You to Present You. If you are inclined to feel hostile toward yourself when you are in the same predicament after many years, maybe don’t do that part of the exercise. Bookmark the parts that provide the most helpful contrast, like the way you felt before you learned to drive a car properly, or the way you felt when you adopted your first ferret.

Use dates and events. You may not be able to replace yourself in a particular day in 2012, but if you write a tiny mention of your barn catching on fire, you will be instantly transported. Again, the likelihood that anyone else will dig into these journals is small, but if it means something to you now, it will mean something to you later on, and if it doesn’t that’s kind of interesting, too, isn’t it?

Sure, in third grade you were “stoked” for a “field trip,” and that seems cute now, but really how stoked do you get these days for a trip to the river? Not so much? Why on Earth not?

Princess Lisa

Besides, if you don’t use dates, I will have a very hard time figuring out whose diary I have here. The illustrations suggest at least two possibilities. I’m not sure who the editor is, either, but I must say I would have left it at, “The Princess is so rice.”

Go on and enrice yourself with words, kids!!


If you enjoy my nattering, please donate to my rice fund by buying a book! My newsletter is entirely free and occasionally contains freebies, like the deleted scene you will receive when you sign up.

Don’t let the bastards get you down!! Get on top of the bastards with love!!

Mom is Broke

Is it possible that if you send a dollar to yermom she will buy something stupid with it? ALWAYS. That should never be a reason not to give a little something back. Is rent stupid? MAYBE!!


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