Journal or Diary or Log?
Journal sounds more well thought out, perhaps more mature, than diary. Is a diary more of a record or report than a writerly endeavor? And of course online considerations now apply. Is a blog, a web log, automatically a type of diary? I am uncertain there are definitive answers to these questions for most journals. Some single theme journals and single purpose diaries do clearly parse into distinct groupings.
Specific Types of Journals
- Event Journal – These follow an event, usually sequentially, through a specific event process as in a pregnancy journal, and record information that pertains only to that topic.
- Travel Diary – Usually a diary is the right terms for these sorts of records as itinerary, food, discoveries, people met, transportation schedules and the like are far more apt to be recorded than long essay-like musings stirred up by experiences, although a travel diary can certainly be used for such reflections.
- Daily Diary/Journal. Again, these records can merely note the basics of the day: weather, appointments, summary mood, correspondence answered, readings, major news stories and the like, or these can record intimate, private thoughts about lessons learned, hurdles jumped, and wrongs righted.
- Medical Journal – When health is a concern both intentional and accidental medical journals are created. Sometimes it is necessary to keep track of states of a condition, or record data a physician wants you to monitor. Sometimes people are, well, a bit OCD and want to keep track of calories, steps, bad thoughts, or other things which they believe impact health.
- Food Diary – There are legitimate uses for food diaries. Migraine sufferers often find food triggers after keeping such a diary for a while, as do allergy sufferers.
- Business Journal – Keeping a detailed calendar sometimes creates a very good diary.
- Sometimes we use diaries or journals only when we are feeling a certain way or experiencing specific types of life happenings. Many people find that, for instance, their diaries are records of depressive events, life altering events, or certain seasons or holidays. These can be quite instructive after the fact.
When it is Your Journal
Do what you will with it. Them. A journal is a process that covers a lifetime and exists in many forms from yellowed cheap spiral binders to acid-free archival quality bound blank books. It is scattered from LiveJournal.com and defunct egroups postings to the cool free travel app your friends turned you on to – such as Journi or Roadtripping .
If you do not want anyone to ever read what you have written, burn the journal, or erase the drive and discard the computer.
When it is Someone Else’s Journal
My mother’s journal, parts of it anyway, are making appearances in the auto-ethnography /memoir I am writing.
It is not always easy to publish another’s persons most intimate thoughts. It is not always advisable. I was drawn in by an NPR interview with Alice and Oliver Novelist, Charles Bock, as he talked about his real life and losing a spouse to cancer when you have a young child. The whole interview is here:
I was not at all surprised that it took him 18 months to even be able to open the journal his wife kept of her life as she was undergoing chemo, bone marrow transplants, and then accepting her own process of dying.
Ethics of Journal Use
Of course it is not acceptable and probably not even legal to use someone else’s journal entries without their permission.
At times it is not even ethical to use your own journal entries that mention others unless your have those persons’ permissions, or you are ready to fight defamation law suits if what you say in those entries is interpreted unfavorably.
In the case of deceased individual’s journals or your own journal entries that reflect on others, living and dead, some of the considerations that might be worth considering include:
- Do you know the facts in the post to be untrue?
- Does the post deceive in some way?
- Does is engage in rampant speculation?
- Is it hurtful to the writer, her descendants, others who cannot defend themselves?
- Was it written or would its publication be vengeful?
- Is the information more important than potential negative consequences its publication might have.
- Is this important information for history or archival purposes?
A personal example of a publication that will happen but had to be discussed per ethics is found with my husband’s maternal grandmother’s diaries. He will publish it, probably on or through this site, but her status as a high ranking member of The Eastern Star, a secret society, and a woman who knew a great deal about goings on in her community due to her roles as Post Mistress and General Store owner will require some potential editing of family names and events, not for our family, as we have a fairly open source policy on information, but out of respect for other families in the community.
There is a reason that people say that “information is power.” It is true for personal information, too.
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