6 Brilliant Writers On the Importance Of Keeping a Journal


I have been keeping a journal since sixth grade. Granted, my entries back then were along the lines of, “I love my new pair of Abercrombie jeans,” or “I totally hate my parents.” (For the record, neither is true any longer.) As I grew older, and, I’d like to think, wiser, I started keeping track of more serious things, like traveling, political elections, books I was reading, and admittedly, boys. I’ve come a long way from sixth grade, thanks in part to documenting my life in my journals. I will always remember what happened before and after that pair of jeans, growing out of “hating” my parents only to realize how truly wonderful they are, and applying to college, my first freshman year party, my first internship, and so on. The following quotes by prominent writers show how important keeping a journal has been to them, as well.

1. Joan Didion

“It is a good idea to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about … I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not .… Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.”

2. Virginia Woolf

On “I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one’s own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity … it is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and the stumbles. Going at such a pace as I do I must make the most direct and instant shots at my object, and thus have to lay hands on words, choose them and shoot them with no more pause than is needed to put my pen in the ink.” 

3. Franz Kafka

“In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.”

4. Susan Sontag

 “In a 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.”

5. David Sedaris

“I’ve been keeping a diary for 33 years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. ‘That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996,” I’ll say to someone.” 

6. Jessamyn West

“People who keep journals have life twice.”