Three famous writers on why they keep a journal

Need some more inspiration? Here are what three famous writers have to say about keeping a journal.

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.

— Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. … What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. 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.

— Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I.’

— Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook,” Slouching Toward Bethlehem

What is your favorite quote about journal writing?

About the author

SE is a 30-something blogger based in Pennsylvania. Her very first loves were reading and writing. NerdyWordy is her way of sharing her enthusiasm with others.

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