December 6th, 2020

doctor who try to see what i see

on keeping a notebook

source: The Isolation Journals
also see: 'Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook' - Brain Pickings


Prompt 121. From "On Keeping a Notebook," by Joan Didion
Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all?...

I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed. See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there: dialogue overheard in hotels and elevators and at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon (one middle-aged man shows his hat check to another and says, “That’s my old football number”); impressions of Bettina Aptheker and Benjamin Sonnenberg and Teddy (“Mr. Acapulco”) Stauffer; careful aperçus about tennis bums and failed fashion models and Greek shipping heiresses, one of whom taught me a significant lesson (a lesson I could have learned from F. Scott Fitzgerald, but perhaps we all must meet the very rich for ourselves) by asking, when I arrived to interview her in her orchid-filled sitting room on the second day of a paralyzing New York blizzard, whether it was snowing outside.

I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not. I have no real business with what one stranger said to another at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon; in fact I suspect that the line “That’s my old football number” touched not my own imagination at all, but merely some memory of something once read, probably “The EightyYard Run.” Nor is my concern with a woman in a dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper in a Wilmington bar. My stake is always, of course, in the unmentioned girl in the plaid silk dress. Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.

Your prompt for the week:
Of her reason for keeping a notebook, Joan Didion writes, “Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.”

Think back on your life and choose a distinctive age: you as a shy child, or a brazen twenty-something—or even the person you were only a year ago, just before Covid hit. If you compared your journal from then with your journal now, what would be different? What would be the same?


source: Isolation Journals weekly creative prompts by Suleika Jaouad