There is something so pleasurably painful about reading old diaries, like picking a scab or waiting for a sneeze or asking an ex to explain, in graphic detail, why they don't want to fuck you anymore. I've mostly avoided rereading my diaries, which are all typed, due to my near-pathological aversion to my own handwriting. But in March, felled by illness and regressing in surprising ways, I wanted to pick that aforementioned scab. So I revisited a year's worth of personal recollections: the 2005–2006 running Word doc I called "creative snippets and observations journal," and now I'm releasing them in a limited edition book Is It Evil Not to Be Sure? available now in e-book from B&N, Amazon, or a variety of indie retailers via Kobo, and in a limited, signed, printed edition at 12 PM EST at the Lenny store. (Update 5/17: the printed copies are sold out! But the e-book copies are infinite).
I'm not sure what inspired me to record my thoughts this way. While nonlinear observations are now the norm because of Twitter-enforced brevity, at the time it wasn't such an obvious way to write (unless, like me, you were reading a ton of confessional poetry and listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs exclusively). But I think the form mimicked what I was experiencing internally: massive personal growth, the kind that comes from a million tiny shocking moments rather than one big bang. In reproducing the journal entries, I've held on to a lot of the unorthodox grammar and punctuation, to keep that immediacy alive.
I needed a personal, urgent way to describe losing my virginity, but also the shaft of light that hit my face the next morning, the smell of burning leaves, and the way my bike chain froze to the lamppost it was locked around, and how these sensations became inextricably linked with some shift inside me. The journals are full of a sticky nostalgia for the present and an achy loneliness unsoothed by hurling myself at every boy in tight pants I could locate in a 30-mile radius. I was shopping in all the wrong aisles.
Some things were just as I remembered them, like the amount I napped, the pride I took in letting my hair knot. And some surprised me. I've spent my entire 20s believing that my cynical, at times comically revolting, vision of sex was a result of being assaulted (which happened a few months after these diary entries stopped). But these "creative snippets and observations" remind me that I always had a dour approach to the act, a sense it was some weird piece of theater that left everyone exposed and no one satisfied. My essential nature was compounded, not created, by the violation I experienced. That comforts me in some way. I was also disappointed, though not shocked, by how rarely my gaze was turned toward other people. Looking around makes you a better writer and must exist parallel to looking inward.
Memoir will never not be my favorite genre (despite the fact that it gets maligned as a way for solipsistic lazy bitches to get and maintain their reputations). So much beautiful, culturally essential work has come out of the act of a woman monitoring her own emotional pulse — books ranging from Sylvia Plath's highly autobiographical novel The Bell Jar to Maryse Holder's Give Sorrow Words to Zlata's Diary , a young-adult account of a child in war-torn Bosnia. Zora Neale Hurston's Letters. I Await the Devil's Coming by Mary MacLane. The fucking Diary of Anne Frank. My college diaries don't begin to join their ranks, but they're a reminder (to me and I hope to you) that your experiences, large and small, are worth preserving.