Six Unforgettable Reflections from Anais Nin’s Prolific Diaries

French Cuban writer Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), is possibly one of the most dedicated diarists of modern times. Her sixteen volumes of diaries, begun at the age of 11 and spanning over fifty years until her death, reveal the inner workings of one of the most brilliant minds in modern history, on topics ranging from literature, culture, human nature, and the interstices of modern living versus traditions of society.

The Diaries of Anais Nin reveal a great deal about the versatile author and poet, and provide timeless advice to aspiring artists, and to those who wish to think deeply.

ImageHere are five timeless words of wisdom on a range of topics, from Anais Nin.

1. On Love:

“Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, a human being with flaws.” (November, 1941)

2. On the Meaning of Life:

“The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.” (May, 1946)

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3. On How Embracing the Unfamiliar is Inseparable from Creativity:

“Educators do all in their power to prepare you to enjoy reading after college. It is right that you should read according to your temperament, occupations, hobbies, and vocations. But it is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar, unwilling to explore the unfamiliar.

“In science, we respect the research worker. In literature, we should not always read the books blessed by the majority. This trend is reflected in such absurd announcements as “the death of the novel,” “the last of the romantics,” “the last of the Bohemians,” when we know that these are continuous trends which evolve and merely change form. The suppression of inner patterns in favor of patterns created by society is dangerous to us. Artistic revolt, innovation, experiment should not be met with hostility. They may disturb an established order or an artificial conventionality, but they may rescue us from death in life, from robot life, from boredom, from loss of the self, from enslavement.

English: Photograph of Anaïs Nin as a teenager...

English: Photograph of Anaïs Nin as a teenager, circa 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When we totally accept a pattern not made by us, not truly our own, we wither and die. People’s conventional structure is often a façade. Under the most rigid conventionality there is often an individual, a human being with original thoughts or inventive fantasy, which he does not dare expose for fear of ridicule, and this is what the writer and artist are willing to do for us. They are guides and map makers to greater sincerity. They are useful, in fact indispensable, to the community. They keep before our eyes the variations which make human beings so interesting. The men who built America were the genuine physical adventurers in a physical world. This world once built, we need adventurers in the realm of art and science. If we suppress the adventure of the spirit, we will have the anarchist and the rebel, who will burst out from too narrow confines in the form of violence and crime.” (Winter, 1949)

4. On the Importance of Dreams:

“The world is heavy and opaque without dreams.” (December, 1940)

anaisnindiary45. On Why Emotional Excess is Crucial to Creativity:

“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.” (1944)

6. On Objects and Evolution:

“In order to change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use. I keep nothing to remind me of the passage of time, deterioration, loss, shriveling.” (September, 1944)

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