Today, I just want to share something simple with you. Something I stumbled upon recently that has become a source of great inspiration.
As a graduate student, I get very few breaks from academic reading. When I do get time to read whatever I want, I’m often so overwhelmed by my options that I end up binge watching old sitcoms on Netflix instead. This summer, however, I decided early on to make a stack of books to tackle before classes start again. I selected several works of fiction, a few collections of poetry, and this:
Many students read this famous text in the first year or so of high school when the curriculum calls for Holocaust-era literature. However, my English teacher at the time replaced it with Night by Elie Wiesel on our syllabus, and I’ve always felt I missed out. Don’t get me wrong, Night is a beautiful and deeply moving book, but every time I saw the smiling Anne on the cover of the copy of her diary that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years, I just knew I would enjoy taking a journey into her thoughts.
Once I finally sat down to read The Diary of a Young Girl, I knew within a small handful of sentences why this piece of writing is loved by so many. Anne’s writing, to me, is the definition of a heart on a page.
Beyond being amazed by her writing proficiency (because good writing does translate), I was instantly awed by her approach to writing about her life. She had no way of knowing, when she began the task, what was to come in terms of the atrocities her fellow Jews would undergo or how important her words would become in the world’s historical view of Jewish suffering in WWII; she simply wanted to put her thoughts down on paper. She had no ambitions for the diary itself, no thought in her mind about it ever being published and read by millions, and therefore, no scruples about writing honestly.
In her second diary entry, she explains her intentions in the following way:
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”
This quote never fails to give me chills. The young girl who has become a household name, whose work has become a piece of world history, simply wanted to unburden her heart on the page. And what was the result of her intention? A beautifully crafted, deeply insightful, emotionally stirring, and historically meaningful piece of writing.
I’m not saying we can all be Anne Franks. I know and appreciate the context of her writing, and I realize that few, if any, of us will ever endure such trying circumstances. What I am saying is this: we can all learn something about writing from Anne. Great writing can start with humble beginnings, with no desire for fame or recognition, with nothing more than a heart that is willing to be spilled on the page.
Written by Caitlin