Brain Pickings

In Pursuit of the Extraordinary: Anaïs Nin Reads from Her Famous Diaries

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“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. … I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist.”

I often say that the answer to every existential question can be found in the journals of Anaïs Nin, one of the most dedicated diarists in modern literary history — her sixteen tomes of published journals, spanning more than half a century between the time she began writing at the age of eleven and her death, are a treasure trove of insight on love, literature, and human nature. In this rare recording from 1966, digitized thanks to a grant from National Endowment for the Arts and contributions by Pacifica Radio listeners, Nin reads from the first volume, though The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947 (public library) remains the best in the series — the same gem that gave us Nin on the meaning of life, how our objects define us, why emotional excess is essential to creativity, and how inviting the unknown helps us live more richly.

Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.

Complement with Nin on how keeping a diary enhances creativity.

Anaïs Nin's diaries, hand-lettered by Lisa Congdon. Click image for details and more illustrations

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