Abandoning Diaries by Sven Birkerts (Button #8)


It sometimes seems that I passed my whole youth starting, maintaining, and abandoning diaries. I would start them because I had a fantasy about discovering a language at once as intimate and impersonal as the language used by writers I loved. I did not understand that their language struck me as impersonal mainly because it was not mine, and that everything I wrote would sound as disconcertingly familiar as the face in the mirror looked. I maintained the diaries -- for up to six months at a stretch -- because in the absence of much creative output they at least gave me a sense of gaining on my dream of becoming a writer. And when I abandoned them it was, I think, because I could no longer endure the sound of my own pretenses, the coy fashion-show of writerly manners taken over wholesale from my heroes. I never even think of keeping a diary now, because I believe that -- for me -- the process of tracking the daily internal flow leaches off the transformational energy I require in order to refract myself into essays and reviews. Hard as it is, I believe that one should come to the page just a little bit hungry, full of personality and the desire to extinguish it for a time in the act of writing.