Don’t Throw Away Your Old Journals

There are gems. There are memories. And there’s you.

Every once in a while I dig up some of my old journals.

This hasn’t happened since I moved. In fact, when I went looking for them to make my 2018 Project for Awesome video last week, I found them at the bottom of a stack of very heavy boxes. Because I apparently finally convinced myself I didn’t need to look back at them anymore. At least, not for a long time.

I was, of course, wrong.

Because as I was filming that video (and making a heart out of journals), I decided to flip through a few of them to see what I could find. And I am so, so glad I did.

My journals don’t contain pictures or poems or really anything all that artsy. They do, however, contain my thoughts. I have collected thoughts for two decades now, I guess, storing them in all these journals that now almost don’t all even fit into one box.

These are important thoughts. Because I have, by now, forgotten about most of them. I’ve forgotten what happened on the first Tuesday in January of 2009 that made me happy or sad or reflective or angsty. That is, in part, the reason I write my thoughts down. Sometimes, it’s best to record and forget — at least temporarily.

There’s an important lesson here — a lesson I apparently needed a refresher on: Your past is just as important as your future. It matters.

Never throw away your old journals. Never put them in a box and shove them in a corner and pile other, much heavier boxes on top of them. Never treat them as though they’re parts of your past that don’t matter. Because they tell stories you may have forgotten about. They reflect the person you used to be. And as a writer, these are significant things that should not be ignored.

You may not be the person you were when you wrote on those lines way back when. But the you of today deserves to see how much you’ve grown from the you of years gone by.

You’ve learned. You’ve changed. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Every writer’s path is a journey, and every writer’s journey looks very different. Don’t try to bury who you used to be. You’re writing the stories you’re writing today because of that person. You’ve survived and hopefully thrived because of that person.

Take some time, every now and then, to remember what made them shine.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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6 thoughts on “Don’t Throw Away Your Old Journals

  1. I haven’t thrown away any journals, but I did throw away some old notebooks with some of my first stories in them a while ago and now I kind of regret it, even though if I am honest my early writing is probably not something that I want to read. However, now I feel like it would have been good to have that. So, basically I’d suggest not throwing away any of your writing you might regret it later if you do.

    1. Absolutely! Keep it all. You never know. :) I’ve lost a lot of writing due to a failed hard drive and broken flash drive over time, and I really do wish I still had that stuff sometimes.

  2. makes sense what you say. however, i generally chuck my journals out unread once i can’t fit them in the cupboard anymore. for some reason, i hate looking back. might have to grit my teeth and follow your advice.

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