I Burned My Journals & Dumped the Ashes in the River.

Here’s Why…

Over the years…

I’ve adopted the daily practice of expressing myself.

It simply sustains. It sustains me and therefore sustains as a prominent place in my daily life.

It started as innocently as my 13-year-old self, with a daily “Dear Diary.”

As a teen, I tore through blank notebooks and journals like a famished omnivore at a Korean BBQ restaurant.

Alongside this teenage daily writing, I also practiced music daily. When my proficiency began to allow it, this musical and written expression became the outlet for that which I was not allowed to say out loud.

There were opinions, stories, desires, lightness and darkness on the pages and hidden between the musical notes. I wrote words and played music because I soon discovered that if I stopped the expression, I stopped living.

This daily practice of self-expression staved off a full-on crisis of mental illness. I know I’m not the only one for whom this is true.

Expression saved my life.

Click here to download free music, coloring book, bravery worksheets and more!

By the time I was 25,

I had collected a huge box of journals filled with memories, traumas, joys, inside jokes, first dates, first kisses, frivolities, camping trips and growing up.

The box of journals I had collected was impressive, but heavy.

I couldn’t continue carrying this box around for forever. Lugging that thing around from house to house in my twenties was getting really old. So, per the suggestion of a friend, I began to transfer ‘the important stuff’ into an electronic archive.

I picked a journal at random.

FIVE hours later, I had the first journal ‘archived’ but had acquired a brain-splitting headache. It was exhausting to be reminded of things people had said, feelings I had purged, and days of my life I had long forgotten. Some memories were fun to recall.

I had forgotten most of these on purpose. I had worked very hard to whitewash them from my mind.

I knew I couldn’t make it through 20+ more journals just like it. The archiving unearthed it all and I was no better for it.

What I realized: the journals had already served their purpose.

They had given me a forum. They gave me the place to lay out my insides and start the day from a safer place.

The blank pages were the lenses which had allowed me to truly see myself in the present moment. I didn’t need to be reminded of the bits and pieces of the stories that didn’t matter in the long run.

So I burned them all.

It took several hours of poking at the fire. Every once in awhile, I could see a word on a burning page. Through the bonfire, those flashes of memory were enough of an archive for me. I threw the ashes into the nearby river.

It was time for those words to move on. It was time to collect new words. It was time to express new life.

I still write everyday.

Usually first thing in the morning. Usually for 15 minutes, but sometimes a lot longer.

I write on anything: my smartphone’s note application, a blank text document, a plain piece of paper, the back of an old bill.

When the writing comes to a close, I throw it away, immediately.

I delete, rip up, and shred it because I need to.

Trashing my daily writing lets me say my peace and then get on with life

& frees me from the fear that someone might discover…

  1. what I really think about so’n’so
  2. how much of an imposter I truly am
  3. what a whiney bitch I am about everything.
  4. how lazy I really am
  5. [fill in the blank]

You see…

The blank page is the kindest permission and deepest forgiveness I have to offer myself, and in turn the world.

Not only that, but…

The Added Bonus of Daily Expression?

When I sit down to write or stand up to perform music, I have a clear and smooth channel to the unfettered parts of me.

Those are the parts I wish to reveal to my audiences.


Emily Ann Peterson is a singer-songwriter and creative consultant. Her book Bare Naked Bravery: How to Be Creatively Courageous will be out January 28th in hardback, paperback, audiobook, and ebook formats.

She founded and hosts the podcast community, Bare Naked Bravery, featuring conversations with everyday heroes about the quiet successes and loud failures required to do the brave things for which we know and love them.

Peterson’s mission is inspire a global resonance and magnanimous community through the marriage of art and whole-person development.

Her music is available everywhere music is sold online and at www.emilyannpeterson.com

click here to download free music, coloring book, bravery worksheets and more!
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