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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Self-Discovery Via Writing

Author Joan Didion once remarked that she didn't know what she thought about something until she wrote about it. Since first being exposed to Didion's words, I have repeatedly found overwhelming evidence to support her remark, especially when it applies to my opinion of a book, film, or piece of music. 

Most recently, this happened while I wrote a book journal entry about Hotel Du Lac. Both at the halfway mark and immediately after finishing Anita Brookner's short 1984 novel, I scribbled brief impressions in my copy of what I'd read, a longstanding habit. And, as is also often the case, my wife asked me my opinion soon after I finished. My notes and my response to my wife's inquiry were decidedly lukewarm. Because even though I rammed through the book knowing I was in capable hands, while reading - and my first reaction after finishing - Brookner's miniature struck me as oh-so-British, i.e., a bit chilly.

But while writing a detailed entry in my book journal, I discovered several additional reasons that helped explain my unswerving involvement with the book, aside from Brookner's undeniable skill, which was apparent from the first page.

* Over its 183 pages, few readers will ever detect the presence of this gifted author. You are in the story from the outset. The universe Brookner creates is small but complete. 

* The third person narration provides perfect ballast for the letters the protagonist writes - but never sends - to her distant, estranged lover. The letters masterfully reveal what is in her heart, including things she will not reveal to the strangers who befriend her at the hotel.

* The slowly unfolding but skeletal back story of the protagonist's relationship with her deceased parents is a marvel of concision.

As further support of the wisdom of Joan Didion's remark, completing this blog post has pushed my esteem for Hotel Du Lac beyond what I had already captured in my book journal. What was the last instance when you wrote something that helped you better understand what you thought?              


  1. I work things out that way for myself often.

    1. Jim; Thanks for two comments in one day - a record for you.

  2. Found quite a bit of truth in this post about self-discovery thru writing. I've often revealed some of my innermost feelings as I've put my fingers on the keyboard.

    1. Anonymous; Thanks for the comment. It's amazing how a pen or a keyboard can open us up, right?