A Public Notebook?

I recently came across an article in which the writer celebrates keeping a notebook. But there was one passage that really surprised me:

Another thing that makes my notebook unique and interesting is the open access to its pages. While diaries are revered as the fiefdom of one man’s innermost thoughts and deep, dark secrets, my notebook is like a scrapbook that anyone can browse. When I began using my notebook, I vowed to be discreet and to put only wholesome things in it because I didn’t want to be lampooned over a controversial or intriguing entry. Letting other people take a glimpse at the contents of my notebook gives them the opportunity to share their views about the stuff that I have written, drawn or collected. In doing so, creative exchanges follow, varying and engaging perspectives are ignited and we get a chance to acquire more wisdom and inspiration.

(From My notebook | Inquirer Opinion.)

I think most of us who keep notebooks tend to do so privately. It may not always be as secretive as the lock-and-key diary we may have had as kids, but a notebook is usually something personal that’s not volunteered for others to read, either because it’s too mundane, too sensitive, or just not in a finished enough state for the writer to want feedback on it. Sketchbooks might be more public, especially if they’re used for an art class, but sometimes artists even want to keep their drawings private. (It might depend on who’s acting as their nude model!)

So the quote above seemed quite revolutionary to me. I tried to imagine what it would be like to keep a notebook that would be completely open to others– it’s a nice idea as described above, as a way to share ideas and opinions. It would be sort of like keeping a blog or one’s Facebook page between the covers of a journal. But I guess that’s also part of the problem for me– the friends who I’d want to read my notebook are spread too far and wide for me to be able to easily hand it to them, so the internet makes more sense for that kind of communication. My notebooks remain intensely private, aside from a page here and there that I might show to someone (or post on this blog!).

How about you? Do you keep your notebooks to yourself or share them freely with others?

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9 Responses to “A Public Notebook?”

  1. Mine are totally private ramblings from inside my head. I would hate for someone to read them. My husband has instructions to destroy them if anything happens to me. It gives me the freedome to vent or whatever and not worry about what others think about it.

  2. Mine began as something private- but then when Zuiuderlucht a Dutch arts paper asked me to do a monthly piece based on what was in them, they became more ‘public’ . . . although I still choose what was included. Now my site http://www.reallyaccessiblememory.com is based on my journals, although I still retain the right to ‘include or exclude’ !? The material is shown as it appears and I no longer re-type anything – I’m trying not to write ‘for the site’ but it does mean I try to make things slightly more legible than I used to . . .

  3. If I know that someone else is going to be reading my notebook, then I’ll do too much self-censoring and/or trying hard to be clever. So, private, but I may later choose to make some entries public.

  4. My writing is done for my eyes only, often for purely theraputic reasons. I’m really intrigued by the idea of a public notebook though, and if I lived or worked in an environment with a number of other people with whom I could share opinions and feelings openly, I’d like to think I would be 100% in favor of a communal project like that. Leave it open, if a passerby is interested enough to write a response or share something, great!

  5. It depends on which notebook we’re talking about. I carry one with me all the time that has random ramblings, grocery lists, notes for things I want to journal about later, quotes, etc. If someone reads that, it’s not such a big deal, and they might be bored with it. My journal/diary, however, is definitely a private thing. I do leave it out on my desk, so my husband might read it (I don’t know if he has), but we’re very open with each other anyway, so even that’s not a big deal. The most I’d feel if I did find out he read it is embarrassed, because much of it is so mundane. But my journal is definitely not for public consumption. My husband doesn’t judge or condemn me, but other people might, and what’s written in my journal isn’t up for critique.

  6. The thought that no one else will ever read your journals/notebooks is unreasonable. unless you have some magic way of having your possessions disappear should something ever happen to you, this just isn’t going to happen.

    I write much like I think. Has this gotten me in trouble? Does a bear go in the woods?

    I have a few working notebooks laying around. One of the is more or less a “like with Kaylee (daughter)” who is now 4. I started keeping this when she was around 2 and I HOPE that some day she does read it. You know “this is why daddy drinks” kind of journal (kidding). The others are like most have said more mundane a day in the life kind of ramblings. I have always thought we someone is going to find these someday and yea, I’m sure it’s gonna piss someone off but I am what I am and the people who matter know that.

  7. I agree more with Derrick. I have certain rules for what I write in my journal and that would protect my family if they want to read them. Anyone else in my life is fair game, so will future generations get an eyeful when they read them? Yeah, but that’s who I am, and I like to think it’ll leave a well rounded look at me and my life. Anyone who wants to read them now could if they wanted to, but they treat the journals with respect and choose not to, their decision not mine. That being said, my husband did go back and read my 2006 journal I keep during our championship football season and really enjoyed. It got a few laughs and a lot of nostalgia, which is why I ulimately keep journals in the first place.

  8. Sharing the contents of my notebooks aren’t even an option for me. If I can only just barely read my sometimes infinitesimally tiny chicken scratched, I don’t know how I can expect anyone else to decipher it.

  9. I keep a journal, and although I would prefer that no one I currently know read it, I have addressed some entries to “you, the reader,” indicating that I do expect, sometime, someone to read my entries and get an idea of how I think (for example my wife and kids, fifteen years from now, or even me in 15 years…) as a 17 year old high school student.

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