After a long wait, my name came up at the library for Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris. I’m a long-time Sedaris fan. I’ve read most of his books and I own 5 (he’s written more than that). I’m not crazy, though. Like, I’m not very motivated to attend one of his signings or readings. And, I don’t necessarily keep up with his pieces published in The New Yorker. (Sorry, David.) Still, as soon as I read the introduction of his diaries, I was reminded just how much I want to write like him and write the same kind of pieces he does.
Maybe I’m on the right track, too, because I’ve been keeping a “diary” since July 7, 2001. I was 18-years old, a fresh graduate of high school, and it was before I really discovered Sedaris.
Of course, I call mine a “journal.” I do that intentionally. Diaries just don’t seem serious enough, you know, “does he like me” kind of junk kept secure with a cheap lock that your brother just may pick or bust anyway. (You’ll find plenty of “does he like me” junk in my journals, though.) I just Googled the difference between a diary and journal and there’s a lot of weird explanations. My go-to dictionary uses each word to define the other. So I’m going to keep using them interchangeably. (Maybe I’ll keep calling mine a “journal.” But then, maybe Sedaris will convince me to start calling it a “diary.”)
In his introduction, Sedaris explains the purpose of keeping a diary:
If nothing else, a diary teaches you what you’re interested in. Perhaps at the beginning you restrict yourself to issues of social injustice or all the unfortunate people trapped beneath rubble in Turkey or Italy or wherever the last great earthquake hit. You keep the diary you feel you should be keeping…
After a year, you realize it takes time to rail against injustice, time you might better spend questioning fondue or describing those ferrets you couldn’t afford. Unless of course, social injustice is your thing, in which case–knock yourself out. The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often we can’t.
Talk about the truth! Although, I think I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I’ve already instructed my husband that if I happen to die an untimely death, to burn my journals: don’t read them, don’t collect $200, just burn. A lot of it is just me rambling, trying to figure out how I feel. And, no one needs to suffer through that. I already have.
A week or two ago (before I picked up this book), I was writing in my journal and I had the thought, “Is this enough? Is writing here satisfying?” That is, I have this hazy goal of being published. It’s the reason why I’ve done all this. At times, it can seem slow–both slow in writing and slow at searching for opportunities. And, honestly, I answered, “yes.” Writing in my journal is fulfilling. If I could look into a crystal ball and see that none of my writing* is ever going to be published in a way that earns a living (which is the ultimate dream), well, then I’d still keep a journal and I would feel satisfied.
I’m still going to keep writing outside of my journal and pitching pieces until that crystal ball rolls along, though.
*That is, stuff I write outside of my job as a copywriter.