I think the biggest barrier that stops people from full honesty in their private writing is the fear that others will read what they’ve said without knowledge or permission. To know that others could see their innermost thoughts without them knowledge is the scariest thing in the entire world.
We often lament on our limited knowledge of certain periods of time, our few resources of personal accounts of those who actually lived there. But when I think of all the people I know who don’t keep a diary because they’re afraid of what others might know, of their belief in not being able to keep up in a journal regular, of many other reasons…then it’s not so hard to see why we don’t have as many of these resources as we wish we had.
It’s a hard balance to strike, however. We want to respect the privacy of others and yet we want to know more about our history and our culture. I often think of Jane Austen, the famous author of whom we know so little but adore her works so much. We don’t know very much about her; she was so private in her life that even her sister destroyed several letters after Austen’s death so no one can know more about her. To the inquisitive mind, this is frustrating. I mean, who doesn’t want to know more about a famous classic writer? But she was also a real person with real emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Shouldn’t she, also, have a right to privacy?
I think that’s the crux of the issue: in order to allow full honesty in what we write, we need to have a sense of respect when it comes to others’ writing. If we have a family member who wants to keep a journal, then we need to let them have to space to let the words flow onto their paper. If we want more insight into the human psyche, then we need to let them write in their privacy without the pressure of thinking someone might be reading it.