HauteLit from HotLanta: Anais Nin
There’s a big fish outside my window. Really big. As tall or taller than the building I’m sitting in. That doesn’t ring true with accuracy, I know, but that’s what I see from where I am. It’s copper- green and grey with sculpted scales, taking a gulp at the sky. If a plane were to fly by in the distance across the line of sight where its mouth stands agape, I have no doubt it would appear as if the fish were about to catch a fly. Such an event has not yet occurred, but I haven’t lost hope that it could.
It’s not really my window. It’s the window to my new library. I say that as if you could possess a library, but you can’t. I used to frequent one and now I frequent another, but neither of them will notice. Never static, these libraries. People come in and people leave, sometimes the same people come in and the same people leave, but over time those people die and new people come in and library still stands, crumbling ceilings, sounds of faulty electricity, narrow shelves and all.
I’m small in front of these floor-to ceiling windows, but I’m wearing a dress that probably draws too much attention amidst the muted expectation of fall wardrobes. I’ve sat here for a week and a half. Not consistently, mind you, but each day for most of the day. These windows probably once showcased the city skyline. Now it is an exhibit of stacked monotony. The city has curated an unfortunate row of apartment buildings across the street from the library. Oh, and the fish. In the corner, at the right angle, is the fish. If it weren’t for that, all hope would be lost for the aesthetics of the window. I hope that in the library today, amidst the monochrome scene of black laptops and tapping fingers, that I am the fish.
I’m deeply disturbed by the fact that I didn’t notice the fish until today. I’ve been coming to this particular library and sitting with view of the window for a week now and no fish. This is how I know that something is wrong. My usual mechanics have been skewed somehow.
“But what neither Larry nor Henry understands is that women’s creation far from being like man’s must be exactly like her creation of children, that is it must come out of her own blood, englobed by her womb, nourished with her own milk.”
Anais Nin, “The Diary of Anais Nin” p. 1692 Norton Anthology of Literature by Women
It’s become clear to me that in “trying to be a writer,” I’ve lost what made me want to write in the first place which are my habitual flights of fancy into an inner introspective world. I finished my most recent journal this summer. It was an unlined, unspined, soft-covered journal of perfection. I filled every page fully full. I promised myself that I would find another and write another journal shortly thereafter. Somewhere along the way, I decided it would be more cost-efficient and smarter to instead buy a binder and keep exorbitant amounts of college-ruled paper within. I must admit that in many ways, it’s great. I can tear out pages I don’t like easily and it even has folders where I can organize finished works, brainstorming, sketches etc.
There are two important aspects of a journal that I forgot about: binding and portability. These things seem trivial, sure, but I can assure you they are far from trivial. The lack of these two things in my journal as of late have left me unable to journal properly as I have been accustomed to doing. Months have gone by without my ability to write at length whenever I so choose in a journal-like entity. It seems silly, but I know it’s true because I’ve never had a hard time journaling before. By no means am I a consistent journaler, but the journal was always there ready and waiting for my ideas or diatribes. Whether or not I journaled every day, I always managed to finish the journal.
Binding: This is an important aspect to a journal because it ties your thoughts together. Even if they are in no way connected, they are. There’s something about the inability to rip out pages (well you can rip them out but it will look terrible and loosen the binding) that makes a journal really feel like a journal. In essence, you’re tied to the words that you wrote ages ago even as you’re writing something in the present.
Portability: This is the most essential aspect of a journal. Lugging this heavy and overly-large notebook around to dinner or to a friend’s house or to the coffee shop is getting increasingly difficult and unnecessary. Pulling out a tiny journal to jot down a few thoughts isn’t super obtrusive to those around you. It seems, typical. Pulling out a binder and flipping through folders and notebook pages, well that’s a little disruptive. In other words, I’ve been resisting writing down my every (interesting) thought like I used to because I have not had the appropriate receptacle for such action. Sure, I’ve still been jotting notes in the memo app of my phone, but again, it’s just not the same.
All of these thoughts had not yet swirled in my inner world. I walked through the library in morning light desperately seeking inspiration and then, VOILA! Anais Nin. I didn’t even know I was missing my journal and yet my subconscious brought me directly to her. I scanned countless authors, but Anais was the one that seemed to scream out to me. I opened up Volume Five of The Diary of Anais Nin and almost wept. In her uncanny observations of Acapulco, I recognized in her the inner world I have been missing.
I used to hate journals and diaries. For a time, I thought it was too hard to write to no one. But, in my time away from home in Europe and in Clarksdale I realized that I wasn’t writing to no one, I was writing to myself and I would always be around as long as I was around to be a companion to myself (granted, slightly mentally unstable). I don’t write, “Dear Me,” or “Dear Diary,” but every time you put pen to paper, you’re writing to someone whether it be poetry, a short story or just thoughtful prose.
The best part about the Diary of Anais Nin is that it’s candid. If you can’t be candid to yourself, then who are you? All of these feelings I’ve had of being unconnected, of feeling like a stranger in my own skin, I can now attribute to my lack of an appropriate journal. Whether this is in any way accurate does not matter. For the indefinite duration of my time, I plan to be candid with myself, at the very least, in my journal and to write like I want to write unapologetically.
JOURNALS or JOURNAL-LIKE ENTITIES
**Anais Nin plays the role of the woman wearing a birdcage in this re-cut version of Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and it is loosely inspired by Kubla Khan by Samuel T. Coleridge who was discussed in last week’s HauteLit from HotLanta.