Drawing Inspiration From Famous Diarists

JournalateHQ   •   February 17, 2017   •   0 Comment

As you continue finding your voice and developing as a writer, it may be helpful to you to draw inspiration from the numerous historical figures and terrific writers that also kept a journal. Some people, in fact, became famous solely because they did create a journal. Anne Frank is the best example of this, who would likely have been forgotten had she not beautifully recorded the atrocities and accompanying fear of the Holocaust.

Other journals are also excellent to read in order to better learn the art of self-expression. One of the best we have ever read was the journal kept by the poet Sylvia Plath. Plath battled severe depression her entire life. When she was twenty years old she tried to commit suicide for the first time by overdosing on sleeping pills. Nearly ten years later she tried again by driving into a river. She finally succeeded by sticking her head into an oven and succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning in 1963 at the age of thirty. The year before her death, Plath’s marriage ended when she became aware of her husband’s cheating. In the space between the dissolution of her marriage and her death, she completed all of the writing for which she is now most famous.

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Her journals contain some breathtaking statements, such as when she reflects on lost relationships as well as her own defunct spirituality:

“God, I want to get to know him. If I could build an idea and creative life with him, or someone like him, I would feel I lived a testimony of constructive faith in a hell of a world. And our reality would be our heaven. Please, I dream of talking to him again, under apple trees at night in the hills of orchards; talking, quoting poetry, and making a good life. Please, I want so badly for the good things to happen.”

Or when she stops to reflect on the building of her rich inner world:

“It will take months to get my inner world peopled, and the people moving. How else to do it than plunge out of this safe scheduled time-clock wage-check world into my own voids. Distant planets spin. I dream too much of fame, posturings, a novel published, not people gesturing, speaking, growing and cracking into print.”

Another excellent journal to read was written by New York attorney George Templeton Strong. His journals describe New York life amidst the Civil War and other historical happenings. Strong is obviously wired very differently that Plath was and his writing is more literal, rational, and measured. Here he is describing the start of the War:

“This morning’s papers confirmed last night’s news; viz., that the rebels opened fire at Sumter yesterday morning. During the day came successive despatches [sic], all one way, of course, for the Charleston telegraphs are under Charleston control, and in addition to the local taste for brag and lying, there are obvious motives for a high-colored picture of damage done the fort. It tend to prevent reinforcement by any supplementary expedition that might be extemporized if the parties appeared to be at all equally matched.”

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And here he is celebrating the fall of Atlanta and being able to taste the end of war:

“Glorious news this morning— Atlanta taken at last!!! It comes in official form, seemingly most authentic, but there are doubters who distrust it, and the appearance of no additional intelligence since morning gives a certain plausibility to their scepticism. So I suspend all jubilation for the present. If it be true, it is (coming at this political crisis) the greatest event of the war.”

One final diarist we’ll recommend to you today is beat writer Jack Kerouac. One great journal entry describes the writer gathering his thoughts for his masterpiece On the Road:

“My new plans for March: soon as I get my money, I’ll join the morning club at the Y and work out almost every weekday. Also, black coffee (no cream and sugar); chinning from the door (which has no real grip, so I can only do ten or eleven or twelve); and less sleep. I’ve been getting fat and lazy. Time for action, time for a new life, my real life. I’ll be twenty-eight in two weeks. Two meals a day instead of three. Much travelling. No stagnation. No more sorrows! No more metaphysical awe! Action … speed … grace … Go! Writing from true thoughts instead of stale rehashes. I’m going to express more and record less in ‘On the Road.'”

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Kerouac’s journals were published under the title On the Road Again and he also published a dream journal that he kept.

We hope you draw some inspiration from these three journalists. But in order to make progress, you have to put forth some effort. So, what are you waiting for? Get journaling now!