Why Did I Write It Down?

Explore the essence of memory and writing in Joan Didion's "On Keeping a Notebook." Learn what propels us to record life's details and find your own reasons to write.

Why Did I Write It Down?
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Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Any of it? Why do I keep a notebook at all? It is easy to deceive oneself on all those scores.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful if accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle.
Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearranger of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentment of loss.

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Joan Didion Collection