letting it go

Don’t Keep a Diary

Zadie Smith.
Zadie Smith. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

It’s a calming joy to hear advice that requires no significant changes to our lives in either a day-to-day way or in a grand, big-picture sense. Zadie Smith has made a new addition to this good category in an essay for Rookie, by praising the inability to keep a diary:

The dishonesty of diary writing—this voice you put on for supposedly no one but yourself—I found that idea so depressing. I feel that life has too much artifice in it anyway without making a pretty pattern of your own most intimate thoughts. Or maybe it’s the other way ’round: Some people are able to write frankly, simply, of how they feel, whereas I can’t stop myself turning it into a pretty pattern…

I realize I don’t want any record of my days. I have the kind of brain that erases everything that passes, almost immediately, like that dustpan-and-brush dog in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland sweeping up the path as he progresses along it. I never know what I was doing on what date, or how old I was when this or that happened—and I like it that way. I feel when I am very old and my brain “goes” it won’t feel so very different from the life I live now, in this miasma of non-memory, which, though it infuriates my nearest and dearest, must suit me somehow, as I can’t seem, even by acts of will, to change it.

Let those empty pages lie and continue about your day, forgetting it as you go along. Enjoy.

Don’t Keep a Diary