Lovers and keepers of diaries and also notebooks frequently struggle to describe what the is about putting their ideas and also thoughts onto document that feels so urgent. As occupational that will likely never be published, the personal journal is undoubtedly urged by a exclusive need. If the journal is not meant to connect to others, what then is it for? What compels us to record our lives, ours moments, our fleeting thoughts?

In Joan Didion’s 1968 anthology Slouching towards Bethlehem is a exorbitant essay titled “On keeping a Notebook,” in i m sorry Didion considers this question. Though the essay was originally written nearly half a century ago, the insights in ~ its heart apply to lot of our modern record-keeping, native blogging to Twitter come Instagram.

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"...our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what us see around us, the typical denominator of all we watch is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable “I.” We are not talking here around the sort of notebook the is patently because that public consumption, a structure conceit because that binding together a series of graceful pensées; we room talking around something private, about bits that the mind’s wire too brief to use, one indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with an interpretation only for its maker." 


Didion considers that journal maintaining is an plot of ego. She observes the it is likewise a way to no so much record moments regarding experience them. In lot the same way as we feel compelled come pull the end our phones and take photos once something is keep going (pics or that didn"t happen!), she it was observed in herself an impulse to pull out her notebook and write down. Our resides are consisted of of moments, and in attempting to capture those moments, we space in reality attempting to catch our lives.

"I think we room well advised to store on nodding terms with the world we supplied to be, whether we uncover them attractive company or not. Otherwise they revolve up unannounced and also surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door in ~ 4 a.m. The a poor night and also demand to understand who deserted them, who betrayed them, that is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we assumed we might never forget.

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We forget the loves and also the betrayals alike, forget what us whispered and also what we screamed, forget who we were."


Didion"s essay is very recommended reading for newspaper keeps and diarists, as is the whole volume that essays. You"ll discover Slouching in the direction of Bethlehem ~ above Amazon.