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.

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. … Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.

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

As there are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.

— William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond

Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point. It is a difficult point to admit. We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing. … Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.

— 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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