I’ve always loved this photo of Anais Nin. Many photos of Anais Nin portray her as young and beautiful. In this photo, she is older, yet I feel that her age does not detract from her sensuality. Her age in this photo is mirrored by her placement in the vault; she is surrounded by her journals, a lifetime of work.
Anais Nin is best known for her journal writing, in which she explored the world of her life. She was an extremely intelligent, artistic, and independent woman. She is remembered for her writing, her beauty, and her lovers. She had studied psychoanalysis and had a keen interest in human psychology. She is also known for her erotic writing and her open exploration of sex and sexuality.
I feel that the popularity of her journals speaks to her fundamental power as a writer – using language as self-reflection, making the internal external, and then moving from the individual to the universal.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.” ~ Anais Nin
Although one can see the specific tie of this quote to memoir and journal writing, this is true for a writer of any genre. When we write about the past, we must relive the experience; in the reliving, our minds begin to analyze, to make connections and grasp at patterns, and to further our understanding of ourselves and our worlds.
When I first started this website, I knew that I would spend some of this time writing blog posts, and I knew I would be basically creating a public journal. I think and write in a similar way online as I do in my private, handwritten journals.
However, in my private journals, I do not edit myself at all. Sometimes I write raw and wild things, silly and boring things, things I know that no one will ever see. But there is this compulsion in me, the need to write. It’s been like that for me for as long as I can remember.
When I was a child, before I was able to read or write, I was obsessed with drawing. I have always been a visual-tactile learner, and the action of putting a pencil to paper is a very concrete way to process the world. My discoveries with written expression caused nothing in the house to be safe. I used to draw and write my name on the walls and furniture, compelled by the physical action of writing, and this need to imprint the essential nature of my self on my enviornment.
I am more conscious of this need as an adult, the need to move my thoughts into words, the necessity of transforming silence into language and action. In journal writing, it is very reflexive and the process of retrospection happens naturally. But in my creative writing, I do not necessarily have the luxury on relying on past experiences with which to tell stories, and to further see them in retrospection.
In creative writing, I open my mind to experiences that live in my imagination. I taste life the moment these dream-like states enter my mind and I translate thought into language. Sometimes these are vestiges of the past; I do believe that all of our experiences never leave us and come out in a number of different ways. In writing fiction, moments of retrospection come in terms of revisions, literally re-seeing the whole experience, and recreating the vision as a functional story.
I write to taste life twice… I write to taste life. Writing is my way of interacting with the world, of giving myself to the world. Recently I came across a quote by Buddha: “Your work is to discover your world and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.”
We all have gifts, though we cannot understand where they come from, or why. We need only discover what they are. We all have work to do, specific to our talents and desires. Our work is where our passions are stirred, where we love, what causes us to move outside of ourselves – to explore and discover, evolve and change and grow, learn from our experiences and fully live in our worlds – to taste life, to savor it.