First Drafts: How they Torture Me

Show of hands:

Who else out there is terrified that someone will read your journals one day?

image from denise wymore
This whole writing thing is gutsy.

From Anne Lammot's Bird by Bird, about when she was writing food reviews for a magazine:

The whole thing [the first draft] would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I'd obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft.  I'd worry that people would read what I'd written and believe that the accident had really been a suicide, that I had panicked because my talent was waning and my mind was shot.  

And she was writing food reviews!  Not even poetry or drippy journal entries!  Just articles about how the chicken tasted that night!


This months' goal- to write for about 10 minutes a day- produces a lot of "first draft" stuff.  Maybe no second drafts at all.  Just writing.  About nothing.  Like- picture 10 more minutes' worth of this paragraph.   

I've written about two sentences about how I am not afraid to get rid of old journals.  If they are mortifying, and nothing but dry-heaving comes of reading them, then get rid of them.

So I find myself at an impasse.  Should you just write and then get rid of a bunch of stuff that you wrote?  Or keep it all- journal entries, stabs and poetry, reflective writings, etc- and just say "the hell with it" when you think about your kids or relatives reading it one day?

I'm serious.  Tell me.  


  1. I say keep it all. Like you, I struggle with clutter, too many books, not enough shelves, that sort of thing. But, writing... I think history is important, and sharing stories with children and grandchildren is important. I sometimes think that when I'm gone, reading my writing will be the only way for people to really *know* me (for better or for worse) after I'm gone. And that seems important to me.

  2. I've kept all of my journals thinking someday my angsty 20 something year old daughter will want to read them and see that her totally hip mom CAN relate after all. But I read a few entries the other day and even I got bored. Plus, I'll probably only have boys who won't give a $#!@ anyway. That settles it, I'm getting rid of them.

  3. I'd love to have my mom's journals. Wouldn't you?

  4. I just purged some pages of my old journals a few months ago. And I don't think I'll ever regret it. Sometimes it's therapeutic to put something down on paper...but that doesn't mean it has to ever be relived in the future...especially not by someone other than me!

  5. I think the journals reflect so much more than just the writing of "secrets" or truths embarrassed to share..they are an expression of an earlier you... and what a gift to see the evolving of you over the years... the reason Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors is due to the raw authenticity and boldness to share and say what others are fearful of sharing.. that to me is true beauty and acceptance at it's finest!!

  6. oh and one more thing.... You've always been someone that I've seen as being pretty gutsy!!! so I say keep being gutsy with your writing and with keeping your journals!! :)

  7. hmmm... lots to think about. i think i like a record and a story of who i am now, but i don't think i need to keep ALL of it.

    has anyone read about mother teresa's letters, and how she clearly requested that they NOT be shared with the public? and now they have been printed and published for all to see. there's something to the idea of privacy, and what is yours being yours unless YOU share it with others.

    i'm still a little on the fence... pretty much deciding journal by journal. keely, i would love to have my mom's journals... but maybe only a certain version of them. maybe i'm a lightweight in that manner. i still think i'd choose to only read a part of her that she wanted me to read.


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