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Diary Bonfire

If you had 78 notebooks detailing twenty years of your life, would you preserve them or destroy them?

In 1996, I started journaling, not because I thought I was a writer, but because I was an aspiring actor in Columbus, Ohio and I needed a creative outlet. After reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I dutifully journaled every day for about twenty years. Then I had a baby and the daily journaling got spotty. But it did not stop.

I have said

And I still claim

That I will burn those journals.

A.) They take up too much space

B.) I imagine the content to be –I know it is– unflattering and valueless

C.) I don’t want anyone who survives me to feel responsible to

  1. read them or

  2. burn the pages themselves (herself. it will most likely be my daughter, my only child.)

The urgency to burn my journals just builds and builds. With my age. With my anxiety. With Covid-19. Death comes when you least expect it. Or sometimes when you are driven to the hospital with a virus for which you’d been warned for months and months, and so you might not expect it, but you could have expected it. You wouldn’t be considered paranoid if you’d expected it. In either scenario, I do not want these fucking books hanging around.

I thought I’d do the burnfest at the twenty-year mark, but I had a newborn and I was very very broke. Not that you need a lot of money for fire, but I’m thinking bonfire, beer, crowd, celebration, and for that you need land, and I live in Queens and no one has outdoor space. Except for parking lots where I couldn’t even afford to park for the “after two-hours rate” let alone get a fire permit (is that a thing? No. No way. I’ll look it up, but no. Can’t be. Not in New York.) Then, I thought, I’d try to plan the bonfire for the twenty-five year mark but that was Fall of '21 when we were still in the clutches of a global pandemic.

Now I'm thinking it'll be the best way to celebrate turning fifty.

That's twelve months away.

And the question becomes... do I read them before I burn them?

You’re not supposed to read your morning pages, as stipulated by Ms. Cameron in The Artist's Way. Over the years if something valuable emerged from the pages, I copied it and put it somewhere to evolve separately. What’s left is junk. A lot of wallowing, I suspect. He doesn’t love me and she doesn’t like me and I didn’t get the part and why me? why me me me? It will be a little gross. It will be a lot gross. It’ll be gross.

Gross junk.

But I kinda want to look at The Gross.

And I have fifty or so notebooks that give me the option and resources to do so.

As a collection, they are a spectacle.

For a while some of the journals were in duffel bags at my parents’ house in Columbus, Ohio. (They were so annoyed.) I retrieved them just before they moved. I sorted the books and put them in chronological order. I labeled them by year. Now they are arranged in boxes taking up precious space in the small closet I share with my husband in our Queens apartment.

In twelve months, the books will burn.

Between now and then, they can continue to overwhelm my closet

Or they can spill their –ahem– beans.

I give myself a year.

I'll need to average about five or six books a month to get through them all.

Anything I find there that is worth remembering I'll put here.

I'll spare you the rest.

The rest I ignite!

This blog will be all that's left of all those pages.


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Jul 03, 2023

I will bring ingredients for s'mores and the contents of flasks. We can play relevant soundtracks from that year's Top Ten radio (in the genre of your choice). Dancing may be required. I'm in for your ride!

Jul 04, 2023
Replying to

Dancing. YES!


Ben Gorman
Ben Gorman
Jul 01, 2023

I, too, have kept journals over the (many more) years. I, too, have struggled with the "to keep or not to keep" conundrum. Mine were much more spottily produced over a much longer span of time, with a resulting cache far smaller than yours. But mine are mostly digital. And whenever I happen to look through one of these electronic (or even the paper) missives from the past...bad things happen in my brain. I am thrust into a desolate, seer, foreboding world of what-ifs and why-oh-whys and can-someone-help-hims that can leave me depressed for days. HOWEVER, there are also records that (in my head, anyway) are somehow separate from the Notes of Horror. Because I also wrote, over the many years…

Jul 03, 2023
Replying to

"Notes of Horror." I am familiar with the sort.


Jun 28, 2023

Girrrrrrrl - I can completely relate on this topic! If you’d like to burn notebooks together, I’ll supply the location and bonfire 🔥- it just requires a trip back to SSM! Wouldn‘t it be fun to share a random page or three prior to tossing them into the fire?! Then again…maybe there’s content to inspire another play for you so it may be worth a pre-burn review!

- Allie

Jul 03, 2023
Replying to

Yes! Maybe I can create the Diary Bonfire Tour. I have enough books to contribute to 78 bonfires. I'll go wherever the fire burns!

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