I chanced upon Joan Didion’s essay called ‘On Keeping a Notebook’. If you keep a notebook as well, not the recording events of your everyday in a diary, but impressions of the day and go back to it, you do face some of the curiosity that Didion herself faces when confronted with a past that is very forgettable. Didion has been writing about her impressions of the world since the age of five.
“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.”
Didion’s notebook is filled with stories of other people, which is probably why she is a writer in the first place. But she admits that though her notebook is a testament to the conversations she has overheard and people she has spoken to, every notebook entry is ultimately about the ‘I’, the voice who listens to the world. All the events that are recorded are lost. Even if you write things down or record them on your phones, the moment is gone forever and can only be mined for a story afterward or even for an interaction, however brief, with our former selves.
It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about.
Read this fascinating essay here.