Have you been journaling for a while? Years? If so, you probably have stacks or boxes of handwritten journals stashed away under the bed or in storage somewhere. Do you ever ask yourself, What use are those journals now? Or what will happen to them after I am gone? Or perhaps you delve into those old journals from time to time to find material or inspiration for memoir or a short story and wish there were a better way to find what you want.
The answer is to transcribe your old journals into a journaling program on your computer or other digital device. If you already use a computer or device for journaling, you already know the benefits of digital journals. But you may not have considered transcribing your older pre-digital journals.
When I wrote my memoir, Not the Mother I Remember, I scoured thousands of pages of my own and my mother’s journal entries. Some of those entries were digital, others were not. If all had been on the computer, my time spent researching would have been more effective and efficient, and I would have had more time to write.
Now, I am working on a new memoir about a different period of my life, and I have begun transcribing my journals from that period of time onto my journaling software of choice (more about that at the end of this post). As a result, I have discovered the many benefits — not only of having the journals easily accessible, but in the transcription process itself.
Here are ten of those benefits, and why you will want to transcribe your own journals into digital form:
- If you are in the process of writing a memoir, transcribing journals from the period you are writing about awakens memories and emotions that you have completely forgotten about. Transcribing transports you back in time in a visceral way that simply reading your entries will not.
Transcribing your journal transports you back in time in a visceral way. Click To Tweet
- Digital journal entries are searchable and keywordable (okay, I made that word up, but you know what I mean). Ever wondered how many times you wrote about your mother or one of your children during difficult times in your relationship, and what you wrote about? Want to find that particular entry where you described your surroundings after moving to a new state? No more fruitless searching through hundreds of handwritten pages — a quick search brings up just what you need.
- While transcribing, you’ll be able to make note of well-written phrases, unique metaphors, and ideas you’d forgotten about, as well as themes and recurring symbols.
- You can lift those well-written phrases and metaphors verbatim from the pages of your journals and into your current work (for later editing) with a simple copy and paste.
- Most journaling programs allow you to password protect your journals, doing away with any fear of someone peeking at your personal thoughts and feelings.
- Your journals no longer have to take up space or gather dust in your house or storage area.
- Your can protect your journals from disasters such as flood or fire or, as recently experienced here in Napa, earthquakes. Digital journals can automatically be backed up on the cloud, using Dropbox or SugarSync for example, or on a remotely stored backup drive. Once transcribed, you can throw those old journals away (or shred them) and know that they are still saved for the future.
- If you decide to print and store hard copies of your journals, they’ll be easier to organize and read. And if you want to give the gift of your story as legacy, you can easily edit and print selected excerpts from your journals for family and friends.
- You will become more aware of how your journals today may be of value to you in the future and will tend to be more mindful and include more detail in your daily writing.
- Transcribing journals is incredible inspiring. While typing my journal entries I have had many moments of discovery and insight, not only into who I was then, but also how my life events — and how I responded to them — helped to shape who I am today.
Have I convinced you yet? Yes? But you don’t type very quickly? Fortunately, there are now a number of excellent speech to text transcription programs out there, including your smart phone. You can read your journals instead of typing them if you prefer.
Resources for digital journaling and speech to text are as numerous as stars in the sky, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Here are just a few.
- Evernote (Here is a post about why I use Evernote.)
- MacJournal and WinJournal (Mac and PC respectively)
- LifeJournal (Mac, PC, and online)
For Speech to Text
- Your smartphone (most journaling and note-taking applications are integrated with texting speech to text). And it’s free.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking – excellent program for Mac and PC. Their Home version costs around $99.
- Windows has speech recognition built in. You can find it in your accessories, under Ease of Access. I use a Mac and haven’t used it myself, but it seems worth a try.
Skeptical? I challenge you to try it. Begin with a small journal — or just a few pages. Then come back and let us know what you learned.
Photo Credit: Adikos via Compfight cc