October 31, 2008

Famous Journals - Bonnie Way

Many people, writers and non-writers alike, keep journals or diaries. My mom likes journaling so she can look back on what she was doing a few months or years ago. During a time when I was very lonely, the pages of my journal became a listening ear to my thoughts and feelings. Like Anne Frank, I found that "When I write, I can shake off all my cares."

Many of us feel like British author Frances Burney (1752–1840), that “To Nobody, then, will I write my journal! since to Nobody can I be wholly unreserved—to Nobody can I reveal every thought, every wish of my heart, with the most unlimited confidence, the most unremitting sincerity to the end of my life! For what chance, what accident can end my connections with Nobody? No secret can I conceal from No-body, and to No-body can I be ever unreserved. Disagreement cannot stop our affection, Time itself has no power to end our friendship. The love, the esteem I entertain for Nobody, No-body’s self has not power to destroy. From Nobody I have nothing to fear, the secrets sacred to friendship, Nobody will not reveal, when the affair is doubtful, Nobody will not look towards the side least favourable.”

And yet others journal in a more public way, sharing what they write with Everybody. In our modern era, journaling has gone electronic—it’s now blogging. As I’ve surfed through the blogosphere, many blogs that I’ve seen are one person’s ramblings on their own life—and more or less interesting, depending on their life and their writing skill. Yet with the millions of blogs now being published, there is something there that keeps us not only writing such blogs, but also reading them.

Martha Brockenbrough suggests that journals are a way to “learn about yourself and your fellow humans.” We are all curious about those around us, whether they think and feel and see what we do. And not only those in our own era, but those in past eras as well. Historically, journals are important documents about times past. Think of famous journals you’ve read or heard of—Anne Frank’s is probably the first that pops into your head, but other people such as Lewis and Clark, Sir Ernest Shackleton, David Thompson and Charles Darwin also kept journals that are now publicly published.

Recently, my mom and I were touring Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario. Our guide kept referring to the journal written by the thirteen-year-old daughter, Sophia McNab. It was easy to imagine a bored and creative young girl, confined by the manners of the time to the nursery upstairs, recording the daily happenings in the pages of her journal. It is interesting to consider that her journal would become the most important source about a time when children were to be seen and not heard and women belonged in the drawing room. As one blogger says, “Doesn’t it make you just want to keep a diary, something to ensure that the record is accurate, a reference book for the tour guides in the unlikely event that your house is still standing 180 years from now?

So whether you blog or journal in a more traditional sense, don’t think it useless or silly. You never know who may read what you write and learn from it!


  1. Hi Bonnie. For years I was a sporadic, 'when I was in the mood' kind of a journaller. Since my cancer diagnosis, I determined to write in my journal every day. I have kept to that commitment [even on the night of my surgery!]and am so glad I did. Thanks for encouraging us to be faithful to the task and to write down our hearts. I think it is personally cathartic and it is also a testimony for the future. [Not to mention fodder for writing somewhere down the road] Blessings to you and happy journalling! Glynis

  2. Journaling certainly is cathartic. I don't, however, understand the latest trend in writing all in a public domain. Blogging about personal life is not always so wise, especially if one is describing drinking binges and sexual escapades or venting anger towards others! Employers now regularly search the Web for info about potential employees, and many tell-all bloggers have suffered the consequences of their "openness." For that sort of thing, it's best to stick with a traditional journal.


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.