Journals enrich literature
Almost everyone of us maintains some kind of diary - pocket diary,
desk diary, appointment diary or just a small notebook to record the
day’s events. Ordinary people write what they do or intend to do on a
particular day in their diaries.
Sometimes they are short entries couched in code language or longer
essays. Whatever it may be, diaries that contain records of your daily
events are of no value to literary minded people.
Many literary men such as poets, authors and critics keep diaries for
a different purpose. These diaries are popularly known as journals.
Although the diary has largely been ignored as a subject for serious
critical attention, some of the journals kept by men of letters have
enriched literature in no small measure.
One criticism levelled against treating the diary as a piece of
literature is that it lacks artistic intent and there is no effective
communication. The argument is somewhat valid because this form of
literature has no readership or audience. As a result, the person who
keeps a diary may not be inclined to write in an organised way using a
Another objection to treating the diary as literature is its subject
One who maintains a diary may not wish to write anything creative.
Instead he will write his impressions or his personal experiences. It is
a debatable point whether one’s personal experiences can be treated as
Most diaries contain individual experiences or day-to-day events.
That means it is a periodic production that lacks continuity. To a
literary critic this will appear to be something strange because there
may not be any significance in such entries in a diary on different
topics not closely related.
Despite such negative criticism, the diary tradition is in existence.
After reading many diaries or journals a critic can come to the
conclusion that there is an artistic value in this tradition.
Unfortunately, we have no access to many journals kept by eminent
writers because they have not been published. That does not, however,
mean that journals of high literary value are rare; they probably
existed but were not published.
If you look at it closely, maintaining a diary is an important task
performed by a writer. For instance, many leading writers who lived in
the United States of America before the Civil War maintained diaries.
Hawthorne, Emerson, Thorean, Lungfellow and Whitman kept journals. The
practice of maintaining such a journals probably encouraged the next
generation of writers.
Hawthorne, in fact, once advised a friend to write down his views in
a diary. He believed that entries in a journal had an important and
“graphic power.” Such writings helped the cross fertilization of novel
ideas, concepts and techniques. In essence, such journals greatly helped
in the development of literature.
Although the entries in a diary are more or less concerned with
day-to-day affairs, an imaginative writer can make even an ordinary
event appear important by the way he treats his subject matter. After
reading Goethe’s diaries, Franz Kafka said that his stylistic skill
could take a common event and “set fire to it.”
A journal usually contains the writer’s views on factual matters.
However, the diarist can control the situation by streamlining his own
actions. For instance, the writer creates a work of literary art every
time he writes something in his journal.
As has been mentioned earlier, diaries are not written continuously.
The writer may express his opinions on periodic events. However, this
lack of continuity does not affect the overall quality of a journal if
handled with care. Even a novel, for that matter, is not a product of
One notable deficiency found in most diaries is the gaps and
omissions. Critics say even an eminent writer like Thoreau’s
well-written journal had these weak points. Meanwhile, many diaries see
the light of day only after the writer’s death.
The diary is then edited for clarity by a living writer. In the
process what the reader gets is a kind of revised and edited diary which
may lack the original fire in it. Sometimes, the revised diaries are
given different titles.
For instance, Bradford’s diary was called “history.” Woolman’s diary
was known as “autobiography” and Boswell’s diary was referred to as a
“biography.” Parkman’s diary was revised similarly and was regarded as
travel literature. What is more, Thoreau’s journal was called an essay.
Revised and non-revised diaries have their own merits and demerits.
For instance, a revised version is like a well-arranged garden. But the
non-revised diary can be compared to a meadow bubbling with its natural
Out of many well-known diaries of eminent personalities Henry David
Thoreau’s “American Journal” is regarded as a classic. His words found
in the journal will served to inspire many would-be diarists.
He said, “My journal should be the record of my love. I would write
in it only of the things I love, my affection for any respect of the
world, what I love to think of. I have no more distinctness or
pointedness in my yearnings than an expanding bud... I feel ripe for
Apart from diaries maintained by literary giants, many others such as
philosophers and scientists have kept journals recording their thoughts.
“Krishnamurti’s Journal” was written by the late Indian philosopher J.
The journal has now been translated into Sinhala as “Krishnamurtige
Dina Satahan.” The Sinhala version retains the tempo and rhythm of the
original that was written when Krishnaji was 85 years old. Most of the
entries pay a glowing tribute to nature which supports human life on
Writing journals has other mundane benefits to the writer.
Psychologists say that writing in a journal is a good form of therapy.
When you feel angry or depressed, there is a need to ventilate your
Instead of making a confession to a priest or counsellor try to
record everything in a diary. This is a proven method of unburdening
yourself.Whether you are going to publish your diary or not, the
pleasure you experience in writing is immense.
Another advantage is that you can rework the entries in a diary to
write a short story or a novel. Some writers such as Theodore H. White
have written best sellers using the material found in their own diaries.
For all budding writers journals open up a new world to play,
experiment and to take risks. After making an entry in a journal you can
re-read it after sometime and laugh at yourself! That means, you can
write anything in a journal because you do so for your own enjoyment.
However, if you decide to publish it later, you may have to edit
it.If you wish to become a writer, start recording your thoughts in a
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