Nin, Anaïs

Anais Nin

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) embodies the practice of writing as a grand passion and a path to delving deeply into the self. In this sense, Nin foreshadowed the immediacy of today’s world of self-revelatory memoir and blogging. Nin was born in France but spent her teens living in the U.S., becoming self-educated and working as a model and dancer before returning to Europe in the 1920s. When she decided that she wanted her work published and could not find anyone to accept her short stories she started Gemor Press with her then husband so that she could publish her work herself.

Best known, of course, for her multi-volume Diary of Anaïs Nin, which became touchstones of feminist thought, she also broke ground as a writer of female erotica, and was a splendid essayist as well. In her diaries it is evident that writing was what she believed shaped her life and gave it meaning. It was as though it was her personal quest for identity and meaning, which ended up becoming a series that delved into universal issues affecting women in all walks of life.

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Anaïs Nin Quotes

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

“I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, of which I can only escape by writing.”

“Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.”

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” (February, 1947)

“No, you don’t write for yourself or for others. You write out of a deep inner necessity. If you are a writer, you have to write, just as you have to breathe, or if you’re a singer you have to sing. But you’re not aware of doing it for someone. This need to write was for me as strong as the need to live. I needed to live, but I also needed to record what I lived. It was a second life, it was my way of living in a more heightened way.” (“The Artist as Magician,” interview, 1973)

“How quickly the minutes fly when you are writing to please your heart. I pity those who write for money or for fame. Money is debasing, and fame transitory and exacting. But for your own heart…Oh, what a difference!” (The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin, entry dated October, 1921)

“I believe I could never exhaust the supply of material lying within me. The deeper I plunge, the more I discover. There is no bottom to my heart and no limit to the acrobatic feats of my imagination.” (The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin, Entry dated 1921)

“Writing to me means thinking, digging, pondering, creating, shattering. It means getting at the meaning of all things;it means reaching climaxes; it means moral and spiritual and physical life all in one. Writing implies manual labor, a strain on one’s conscience and an exercise of the mind…Yes, my life flows into ink! And I am pleased. For I can live others’ lives without incurring the danger of smothering my inner thought life.” (The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin, Entry dated 1921)

“I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me…I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.” (In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, 1976)

“We [also] write to heighten out own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection … We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in a prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.” (In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, 1976)

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