Whilst tracking my site stats, I’ve noticed an appreciable uptick in the amount of traffic the searches “On Keeping a Notebook” and “Joan Didion” and other related searches that drive traffic to this post.
I suspect many of you are students charged with having to produce an essay on Didion’s masterful meditation on sifting one’s experience through the mesh of college ruled pages. You might have thought I might have a readymade solution for your deadline woes pasted here, ripe for the plucking. But I don’t. Instead, I’m going to wholeheartedly encourage you to read Didion’s essay — if you don’t have it, you can buy it here, from Amazon, for the price of a couple lattes. This?will also afford you the pleasure of her other works in the collection, each as enchanting and sometimes harrowing in their own way.
Perhaps you’ll be as inspired as I was when I first read it in college and thus began keeping my own notebooks in earnest as a result. Don’t cheat yourself, especially if you hope to be writer — encode her wisdom into your DNA and watch yourself grow new muscles, eyes, heart. Worked for me.
And if you’re returning to the essay like an old friend, it’s certainly worthy of revisiting. Especially since spaces like this blog can function as the digital equivalent of Didion’s “Dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper, hotel bar, Wilmington RR…”
From Joan Didion’s On Keeping a Notebook
Why do I keep a notebook at all? It is easy to deceive oneself on all those scores. 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. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle. Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. 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.