Journalcalling #5: Don’t Let Fear Keep You from Writing What’s True

Journalcalling   •   August 7, 2020

An unattended journal can be a deliciously tempting prospect for those spying prying types, and a question I am often asked about journaling is:

“How do you get over the fear of writing what you are really feeling because someone may read it?”

I know of a few options:

1. Embrace your inner firestarter and burn your pages. Julie Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and other books on how to unleash-your-creativity encourages it. She invented the idea of morning pages — writing three pages each day in long-hand documenting whatever is on your mind. She likens it to meditation, and says there is no need to keep it.

“…just as we cannot repeat a meditation, we do not need to review our morning pages,” she says. “I often joke, first cremate the pages, then worry about the body. I have had people burn, shred, and bury their morning pages.”

She doesn’t do it herself, and I am also too attached to my pages to watch them drift up in smoke. But in certain incriminating circumstances, I can understand its appeal.

2. Keep your journal under lock and key. I have never done this, and if I did, I would be sure the people I was hiding it from didn’t know about my safe box. That would make it impossible to resist, and then there is the issue of where to hide the key or how to remember another password.

I prefer to keep my journals out of view which is challenging because I have a few going at once, and I like to keep them handy to remind myself to keep documenting and discovering.

3. Inside the first page of your journal, write a plea for privacy along with your contact information. Something like this:

This is a private journal. Please return to __________ UNREAD. (Skull and crossbone image here.) If you do decide to violate my trust and find yourself mentioned in these pages, do not even think about confronting me.

(This may have happened to me — twice.)

You could stop there, or try to further your argument:

In case you’ve never kept a journal, you should know that I acknowledge and process my thoughts and feelings inside these pages. It can get deep and may seem messy to the uninformed. Along the way, I may have mentioned some of your characteristics that annoy me, (perhaps your lack of respect for my privacy) but unless I’ve said something to you directly, I’ve probably come to some other understanding. Maybe I’ve pondered some of my expectations and my history or noticed some patterns and figured out some action I will take, or not. (Keep them guessing.)

This probably has you hankering to try journaling yourself. I know of a lovely workshop. Just ask.

Now, be a love, and put down my journal.

4. Finally, there is the idea that the fear of having your honest feelings read is not really the issue, suggested by memoirist Lisa Jakub.

“It’s real fear, for sure, but it’s fear of the blank page, fear of what you might put down on that page, and fear of what might happen once you write it down and make it real,” she says.

That rings true. Journaling does help you to explore what’s true for you, and you very well might make some decisions based on what you discover.

“The benefits of a journaling practice are well documented,” Jakub says. “But what if our fears persist, whether writing for others or for oneself? The fear of someone else reading your work is just a prettied-up excuse for not writing.”


She continues, and this is a basic idea that keeps me going even after my journals have been turned by some sticky fingers:

“Might someone read your journal? Sure. You might also walk outside and get hit by a bus. But the risk of getting hit by a bus is not enough to stop us from venturing outside and having all those wonderful experiences, right?

So don’t let the fear of someone reading your work stop you from writing your truth. The beautiful experiences that come out of your courage and honesty will be totally worth it.”