famous diarists

famous writers & diarists on keeping a diary by daintydora

A quote each from some of my favourite and well-known writers and diarists. Their thoughts toward keeping a diary and what to include in it mirror my own from my previous post on the topic. Joan Didion - "How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all?...The point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess."

Susan Sontag - "In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather - in many cases - offers an alternative to it..."

Sylvia Plath - “I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can't be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.” 

Anais Nin - “Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous.” 

Doris Lessing - "A story is how we construct our experiences."

Anne Frank - “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

Virginia Woolf - “What sort of diary should I like mine to be? I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art."


I call myself a diarist by daintydora

I call myself a diarist. But what does that really mean? Is a diary a true record of events, facts, social history to look back on, or simply my impression of the truth; an outpouring of personal thoughts and feelings? Does it matter? Diaries

I'm not sure what the truth really is sometimes, and I think that's OK.

When I write my diary, I write with emotion. The emotion I feel at the time of writing taints the text, the words, the legibility of the the writing.

Sometimes I'll type up a record of a specific event or day (such as for Mass Observation Archive 12th May diary project), but I know that writing by hand equates to writing from the heart, from where emotions stem from; whether they be joy, happiness, love, hate, anger, fear.

I aim to write a daily diary, and am fascinated by the idea of not just recording my thoughts (getting them down, getting them out), but of being able to learn something about myself by going back over these entries, and of potentially finding themes, repetitions of important points (dreams, goals), a representation of my inner self, my inner life, on paper; black and white, the essence of my heart - and my head - captured.

At the start of the year, my diary for 2013 complete (but not completed, simply superseded by time), I read through some entries and was amazed at the things I had chosen to include. Not the big things, the life events, (were there any life events?), but the minutiae of daily life.

That's where the real interest lies; the nitty gritty of why I love to keep a diary. I can look back and remember things I had forgotten had even happened. Thoughts that I had, ideas, or just funny incidental things that would otherwise have been lost.

I consider myself to have a good memory - a photographic memory in some cases - but a diary is always written in the now, in first person, rooted in the action. OK, there isn't usually any dialogue, but often there is a reference to it, 'He told me I was beautiful. I didn't believe him.' There you have fact + feeling.

And I think the real truth is hanging somewhere in the limbo between fact + feeling.

As we all filter events in our own personal way, there is no one, overarching truth. In any collective recollection of a specific event - a flashbulb moment leading to a flashbulb memory perhaps - the real truth would be found, roughly, between the facts (as described, transcribed, diarised), and the feeling. Once the action has happened, it is dissected and interrogated by feeling, by emotion and the emotions aroused by the moment or occasion.

So for the purposes of my own diary, my own personal facts + feeling become the only truth that counts.

I call myself a diarist.