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Writing to Self

There is a need to sensitize the young generation towards journal writing
12:15 AM Mar 10, 2024 IST | Syeda Afshana
writing to self

I vividly remember the first diary I ever read many years ago. Anne Frank and her teenage world of secret hiding. The Diary of a Young Girl. She addressed her diary as “Kitty” like a friend. Her relationship with her diary comforts her all along during her insecure, lonesome and terrified time in hiding. She speaks to “Kitty”, expresses herself, pouring in whatever she had within.


Her last entry in the diary reads—“ I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if ..... if only there were no other people in the world”.


Just three days later after writing this passage, Nazis arrested Anne and her family, and deported them to unknown concentration camps.

The last entry in “Kitty” unravels Anne’s tussle with her identity and her evolving sense of self, grappling hard to figure out her role within the hiding, and positioning herself in the agony prevailing in and out.


It also hints at the harsh realization of vicious people in her world, whom she eventually wishes to shed off forever. She desires for permanent riddance of her ugly past.


Contrarily, Franz Kafka’s Diaries are full of his personal dejection and alienation towards a social system surrounding him. He wrote about his dreams and dilemmas. Feelings and frailties. Secluded, he engrossed himself in writing the diaries that covered the period 1910-1923, and left a rich literature behind that gained him huge acclaim in the literary world. He died at an early age of forty in 1924, after which his diaries were published.


One of the entries in Kafka’s Diaries smacks of his blatantly edgy state of mind—“Incapable of living with people, of speaking. Complete immersion in myself, thinking of myself. Apathetic, witless, fearful. I have nothing to say to anyone—never”. Interestingly, his diaries spoke profusely to the whole world while addressing the concerns that remain at the heart of any ordinary living.


There are many famous writers and individuals whose diaries (also called ‘journals’ in English parlance) have provided insights into the minds of thinking and troubled minds. And formed the finest literature.

Mark Twain is said to have maintained over 40-50 pocket notebooks (diaries) over four decades of his life. Whenever Twain set on a voyage, he would start writing a new diary, noting his thoughts on varied subjects of observation he used to come across.

Ernest Hemingway is known as the most devoted diarist. He wrote- “I belong to this notebook and this pencil”. He used to frequent the cafes of Paris and jot down his story ideas there.

An essayist genius like Emerson has been an incredibly prolific keeper of diaries. He kept 263 notebooks on a plethora of subjects and for a range of purposes. Four of it were specifically for recording the titles of books he used to read, and about 30 pocket-size diaries had been maintained by him for writing down daily happenings, from weather moods to small interactions.

Briefly, there are inspiring examples of diarists who were continuously in a process of self-analysis while being a participant in an external world of mundane happenings. Intriguingly, there have been instances of prison diaries where the outer world being totally shut, minds but could not be incarcerated in captivity. The awakening to the self and its goings-on, could not stop.

There is a need to sensitize the young generation towards journal writing. It can emerge as a sort of documentation to come out as a substantial record of happenings, voices and perspectives around them.

Reaching out to people, talking to them, accumulating experiences and observations—all this requires lasting motivation and a sense of purpose. It is something very different from effortless social media screaming, shitting and scathing. For it needs profound thought and sensibility.

Of course, all that which people observe, think and write down is not always worth public disclosure! Certain things are fit for personal consumption or drawing room discussions/analyses or cyber-stimulated petite discourses, and they in no way are worth to be branded as ‘works of creativity’.

Creative combat is the challenge for the times to come. Confronting people on an intellectual plane can happen only when we learn and groom the culture of honest observation, and its importance of recording and presenting. Alas! where midget mentions matter and make people insecure and jittery, the claims of ‘creative crusade’ or ‘intellectual exotica’ fall like a slick and swindling story.