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Burn your letters? Diaries?

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I think this can apply to anyone, not only writers. When I was in my early twenties I burned the diaries I wrote from ages 12-14, and I don't regret it.

Burn Your Letters?: What writers leave behind and why we disobey their wishes.
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/05/what-writers-leave-behind.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=119d8c22a1-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-119d8c22a1-304469445
#1 - May 27, 2013, 12:53 PM

cindybb

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Ann -

Thanks for posting the link to a thought provoking article.  I remember hearing about them publishing Cather's letters, expressly against her wishes and thinking EGADS!  I agree that we all like to feel like we are "in the know", but what right do we really have?  And yes, our lives are getting ever more public, often to the point of overkill.

I did a purge of grade school diaries many years ago.  I do sometimes rue that as I have sweet memories  - but my college and post college ones?  EEK!  I really should find and destroy - soon!!! I have never referred to them for anything, and I can't imagine I ever will.

Again, thanks for posting!

Cindy
#2 - May 27, 2013, 07:58 PM

Oh, my. I don't think my diaries would ever be described as a "glowing cache of treasure." I do peruse them for reminders of different ages, but they're certainly not meant for public consumption. Not even family consumption. Oy!
#3 - May 28, 2013, 06:26 AM
Twitter: @ KarenBlyToo

Don't have time to read your linked article, but just wanted to chime in that I burned a diary from my late twenties. If anyone had read it, I'd have been mortified!

Ree
#4 - May 28, 2013, 06:52 AM

I burned a diary from my late twenties. If anyone had read it, I'd have been mortified!

Imagine if you'd posted it all to Twitter... or if your parents posted your childhood to their Facebook page... it makes me wonder if the coming years will bring a surge of Internet Eraser technologies.
#5 - May 28, 2013, 08:55 AM

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How do you burn letter you had sent to *someone else*? Break into their desk at their house, perhaps?
And how do we prevent Email, today's "letters," from being strewn all over the world with a click of a button?

The truth is that asking for our exchanges to remain private has never worked, at least not completely.

Maybe the only thing to do is be super-super-uber-careful about what we utter, and accept that whatever was put out to anyone, is out. Period.
#6 - May 28, 2013, 09:13 AM
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 08:51 PM by 217mom »
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

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I burned my journal from my time in Iraq, while I was having an emotional spat with my boyfriend and suffering from PTSD. I REALLY regret that. It took time, too, because I had to hold it over the gas flames on the stove.

However, I would never want anyone else to read the whole thing. I want it back, for myself.
#7 - May 28, 2013, 10:13 AM
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
THE BLIND WISH, Random House Children's, 2015
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I always feel sad about advice to burn all your stuff. When I was younger, I followed it, and destroyed the first full-length story/novella I'd ever written. I really wish I hadn't done that--not because it was amazing, but because it would be proof that I really have learned something since then.

Burning my journals would feel like annihilating myself. If even I don't care to preserve my existence, who else will? But I realize that people have very different feelings about this, and that's okay, too.
#8 - May 28, 2013, 11:53 AM

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I routinely purge everything I've written ... and although I wish I had some of it for myself, you just never know who might end up reading it. Of course, Mirka brings up a good point -- what about letters you send to others. And now with email recording everything, nothing is ever lost I'm sure ...

I was just thinking that personal letters are probably the best archives/diaries ... I write nearly daily to my husband and sister, and probably weekly or more to a couple of good friends. I don't think there's anything horrible or incriminating in them, but at the same time, those letters are for them personally, not for the world, otherwise, I'd have it on my blog ...

I'll continue to trash my journals. It's what I've always done.
Vijaya
#9 - May 28, 2013, 12:25 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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I read that when Jackie Kennedy Onassis was at home after being released from the hospital for her last few days of life she re-read old letters (from others, I assume) and then burned them.

On the other hand, Joyce Maynard used carbon paper and made copies of all her letters to others (including J.D. Salinger) and I'm guessing she'll never destroy them--she writes about the most private things all the time!  :aah
#10 - May 28, 2013, 03:08 PM

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On the other hand, Joyce Maynard used carbon paper and made copies of all her letters to others (including J.D. Salinger) and I'm guessing she'll never destroy them--she writes about the most private things all the time!  :aah

I heard that she actually sold the Salinger letters ... and that the buyer announced his plan to return them to Salinger. I'm not sure if he actually got around to that before Salinger passed away.

I remember reading Louisa May Alcott's diary, which she had expressly wanted destroyed, and feeling weird the whole time because I wanted to read it, but I knew she didn't want anyone to read it. (The funny thing is, I don't really understand why she didn't want anyone to read it. I don't recall anything shocking or shameful in it.)
#11 - May 30, 2013, 05:21 PM
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Loner in the Garret: A Writer's Companion
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I thought about destroying all my highschool and college journals when I was in my mid-twenties. They were so embarrassing to me then. But now I'm glad I didn't, because 1) it was nice to read through them and remember who I used to be when I was going through my divorce and rediscovering myself, and 2) the high school journals are super helpful when I'm looking for that YA voice. I'm not sure I'd want anyone else to read them--because I was certainly no Anne Frank--but... they are not what I thought they were once upon a time. I enjoy having them still.
#12 - May 30, 2013, 05:59 PM

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I heard that she actually sold the Salinger letters ... and that the buyer announced his plan to return them to Salinger. I'm not sure if he actually got around to that before Salinger passed away.
...

I think originally she wanted to quote from them in her book At Home in the World, but she couldn't, because he wrote them. So she described a lot of what he said without actually quoting it.

I met her twice here in Oregon at the home of a Eugene woman she knew. The first time it was a sort of semi-private meeting of about 15 or so fans who had subscribed to a newsletter she wrote  back then. I asked her at that time if she'd ever write about J.D. Salinger, and she said, "No, never!" Well, of course, a few years later she did.
#13 - May 31, 2013, 08:24 AM

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I was living in Italy when Pope John Paul II's personal diaries and letters were being burnt. So many of my friends and neighbors were outraged --- burning history. But it was his wish. And I understand it. everything is left up to interpretation and misinterpretation when we aren't there to explain it

I remember interviewing a publisher and we were talking about primary sources. How do you even know a diary is a reliable primary source? What if the subject kept two diaries ---one for herself, one she knew her mother would read? the publisher said, "If you read my diaries from middle school, you would think me and John Doe were madly in love. Every page of my diary was about him. John Doe didn't even know I existed." Of course, in her next breath she warned me never to use John Doe's name.

I scratched it out of the phone interview notes.... but even if I deleted all of our email exchanges...is it on a server some where?

At that same time. . . I am usually the first to jump for joy when old recordings, musical scores, notes / letters etc... are found and are of historical significance....
#14 - May 31, 2013, 10:11 AM
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I didn't burn the diaries and journals I kept from 3rd grade through college. But I torched the ones from my early twenties. And I'm glad I did.  :voodoo  I'm also glad I still have the other ones.
#15 - May 31, 2013, 12:54 PM
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 12:57 PM by PatEsden »
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