Susan Sontag on keeping a journal

Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one's private, secret thoughts--like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate.  In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood.  It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent.  Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather --in many cases--offers an alternative to it.

There is often a contradiction between the meaning of our actions towards a person and what we say we feel toward that person in a journal.  But this does not mean that what we do is shallow, and only what we confess to ourselves is deep.  Confessions, I mean sincere confessions of course, can be more shallow than actions.  I am thinking now of what I read today (when I went up to 122 Boulevard, St Germain to check for her mail) in H's journal about me --that curt, unfair, uncharitable assessment of me which concludes by her saying that she really doesn't like me but my passion for her is acceptable and opportune.  God knows it hurts and I feel indignant and humiliated.  We rarely do know what people think of us (or rather, think they think of us)...Do I feel guilty about reading what was not intended for my eyes?  No.  One of the main (social) functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly honest only in the journal.  Will H ever read this? 

A couple of thoughts skipped through my mind as I read this 1957 Sontag entry -written just over a year after I was born.  I have always seen my journals as a way of re-writing myself.  So much so, that at one point I began creating false entries that were exciting to me -that I would have liked had they been true.  It had occurred to me as I crafted these entries that I may become forgetful one day, and that I might go back and read my own journals as a way of reacquainting myself with my(former)self, and that with "journal augmentation" I would come away with the sense that my life had been crazy-full of adventure and madcap exploits.  I no longer craft such entries...I think it's because my desire for adventure has been usurped by a bigger desire:  to stay here, exactly where I am and create objects and images in my studio.   I think this desire to be exactly where I am is a huge gift. 

The other point she made in her entry that I connected with is this idea that there can be contradictions between how we act towards others and our feelings for them.  I think that in dealing with people -both others and ourselves- contradiction is the rule.  I have been most surprised -sometimes for the better and sometimes not- by the contradictions I find in myself.