My work is dedicated to the following iconic women whose published diaries demonstrate journaling at its very finest: truthseeking, heartbreaking, soulmaking and lifeloving. They used their journals to dig deep and to find the light. Each in her own way represents for me the values underpinning my work as a journaling coach.
Authenticity: Anne Frank
Anne Frank is perhaps the best known and most beloved journal writer in recent history. Her diary chronicles the two-year ordeal of living in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, combining observations of her daily life with the passionate self-scrutiny of a teenager. While a lively chatterbox in company, Anne’s journal reveals a serious and contemplative inner life, and a desire to be recognised as her true self.
“I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am… on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself. And perhaps that’s why – no, I’m sure that’s the reason why – I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I’m happy on the outside.”
Warmth: Etty Hillesum
Etty Hillesum also kept a journal during the years of World War Two before her life ended at the age of 29 in Auschwitz. Much of her writing centres on her deepening spirituality and her intense intimate relationship with her mentor Julius Spier.
“even when things go badly for me I shall still find life good and worth living…. I know that whatever I may have to give to others, I can give it no matter where I am, here in the circle of my friends or over there, in a concentration camp.”
Creativity: Anais Nin
Adored by some and reviled by others, Anais Nin pursued a richly sensual and adventurous life of the kind forbidden to women, thus marking her for a sustained misogynist backlash. Anais used her journal to explore her inner landscape, to articulate her desires and opinions, and to essentially celebrate herself.
“I want to fill in, transform, project, expand, deepen, I want this ultimate flowering that comes of creation.”
Perseverance: Vera Brittain
Vera Brittain served as a nurse on the front lines during the First World War. Her journal of 1913-17 charts her courtship with Roland Leighton, from their first tentative meetings as friends and growing attachment, to an engagement ended abruptly by his death in battle. In her journal Vera shares her modest joys and devastated grief, revealing a dogged resilience and determination to contribute to the greater good.
“One can only feel a dull agonising ache, worse than a sharp and startling pain. It cannot find expression, and gives one no rest…. I wonder if courage and endurance will bear the strain. They must – helped by the inspiration of direct usefulness and constructiveness.”