Monday, May 27, 2013

Is isn't real until its caged by words

Keeping a diary is equated with youth- childhood, even. Its juvenile, often histrionic and most certainly not a sophisticated form of writing. But every time I try to make my diary into a 'log' or a 'journal' or- god forbid- a jaunty 'idea book', I fail. Why? Because I want to write a goddamn diary, thats why. I want to be unreasonable, I need to exaggerate, I long to provide uneven details and be one-sided with unsupported conclusions and Narniaesque conspiracy theories. I need a place to be unreasonable, besides with my children (according to them) and my workload (according to me).

Because the awful and geeky truth of it is, nothing is real, nothing happened until I have collected the one-sided details like fireflies in a jar held up to the scene of the breathing moment. I am just narcissistic enough to think that I deserve to live twice; once in the moment, and again in the caging of it in words.

It does help that 2 of my most favuorite authors- Anais Nin and David Sedaris- are life-long diarists. I feel vindicated, stealing away minutes- well, hours- to scribble and vent as I do, to know that diary writing can be considered a high form of art. That it's a part of the overall process, or as Anais Nine recounts in her letter to an aspiring youth (as detailed in the Brain Pickings article: "You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. "


Because Sedaris' writing relies so heavily on his own life, it's not surprising that many of his essays begin as entries in his journal, which he has been keeping obsessively since Sept. 4, 1977.

"That's how I start the day — by writing about the day before," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "but every now and then I read out loud from my diary. ... I wouldn't open it up and just read, but every now and then something happens and I think, 'Oh, this might work in front of an audience, so I'm always hoping that something interesting will happen ... but I don't try to force it."

But most of his journal isn't for public consumption. In fact, Sedaris says his public persona as a famous writer is quite different from the person he is — and has been — in private, and the journal is where those two versions of David Sedaris collide.

"There's the you that you present to the world," he says, "and then there's, you know, of course the real one and, if you're lucky, there's not a huge difference between those two people. And I guess in my diary I'm not afraid to be boring. It's not my job to entertain anyone in my diary."

While Sedaris says his partner, Hugh, sometimes wonders whether the impulse to write almost exclusively about one's own life is a sign of narcissism, Sedaris understands his compulsion to journal and compose personal essays differently.

"I mean, I think everybody thinks about themselves," he says. "This seems to me like a part of the obsession with it is just as a writing exercise, really: I write in my diary, and that kind of warms me up, and then I move onto other things."


"I learned that a crazy young woman in her 20s can become a joyful, wise woman in her 60s. It was her [Nin's] belief that we can transform ourselves and our lives through self-creation. And that diary writing was a way."

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