Quotes by Anaïs Nin on Writing, Life, and Love

Anais Nin

Anaïs Nin (1903 – 1977)  was best known for her multi-volume Diary of Anaïs Nin, which became an iconic series of writings in feminist literature. She was a splendid essayist as well. The sampling of quotes that follow reflect her passionate nature and deep commitment to the writing life.

Born in France in 1903, Nin 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.

From the earliest of her diaries, written while still in her teens, to one of her last essays, published just a year before her death in 1977, it’s clear that writing was what shaped her life and gave it meaning.

Though it’s generally believed that Nin wrote her Diaries with an eye toward eventual publication, it wasn’t until the 1960s that they were published and acclaimed as instant feminist classics, depicting one woman’s lifelong voyage of self-discovery.   

Decades of writing accompanied by scant publication success is ample proof that passion was the main ingredient in her steadfast devotion to the craft. So when Nin examined the “why” of writing, it wasn’t for money, fame, or glory. Rather, it filled a need for her that was as elemental as breathing

. . . . . . . . . .

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

. . . . . . . . . .

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“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.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

. . . . . . . . . .

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

. . . . . . . . . .

Anais Nin quote on blossoming

You might also like: Anaïs Nin: Writing to Find Meaning in Life

. . . . . . . . . .

“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)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.” (Delta of Venus, 1969)

. . . . . . . . . .

“He was now in that state of fire that she loved. She wanted to be burnt.” (Delta of Venus, 1969)

. . . . . . . . . .

“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“… 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. (“The Artist as Magician,” interview, 1973)

. . . . . . . . . .

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”

. . . . . . . . . .

Anais Nin Incest Cover

Incest: From a Journal of Love by Anaïs Nin

. . . . . . . . . .

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I didn’t have any particular gift in my twenties. I didn’t have any exceptional qualities. It was the persistence and the great love of my craft which finally became a discipline, which finally made me a craftsman and a writer.”  (“The Personal Life Deeply Lived”)

. . . . . . . . . .

“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”

. . . . . . . . . .

“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.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“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.  (In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, 1976)

. . . . . . . . . .

“The secret of joy is the mastery of pain.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“Someone told me the delightful story of the crusader who put a chastity belt on his wife and gave the key to his best friend for safekeeping, in case of his death. He had ridden only a few miles away when his friend, riding hard, caught up with him, saying ‘You gave me the wrong key!” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“You don’t find love, it finds you. It’s got a little bit to do with destiny, fate, and what’s written in the stars.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

. . . . . . . . . .
Anais Nin
 The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin: A Writer Unsure of Herself

. . . . . . . . . .

Quotes from The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin (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.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“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!”

. . . . . . . . . .

“I am resolved to write, write, and write. Nothing can turn me away from a path I have definitely set myself to follow.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I prefer by far the warmth and softness to mere brilliancy and coldness. Some people remind me of sharp dazzling diamonds. Valuable but lifeless and loveless. Others, of the simplest field flowers, with hearts full of dew and with all the tints of celestial beauty reflected in their modest petals.” 

 

Quotes from The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1966)

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“To think of him in the middle of the day lifts me out of ordinary living.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.”

. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . .

Quotes from Henry and June: “A Journal of Love” 

“Sometimes we reveal ourselves when we are least like ourselves.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I want to make my own discoveries…….penetrate the evil which attracts me” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I’m awaiting a lover. I have to be rent and pulled apart and live according to the demons and the imagination in me. I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality … I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“I will always be the virgin-prostitute, the perverse angel, the two-faced sinister and saintly woman.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“Everything with me is either worship and passion or pity and understanding. I hate rarely, though when I hate, I hate murderously. For example now, I hate the bank and everything connected with it. I also hate Dutch paintings, penis-sucking, parties, and cold rainy weather. But I am much more preoccupied with loving.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“For you and for me the highest moment, the keenest joy, is not when our minds dominate but when we lose our minds, and you and I both lose it in the same way, through love.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“What can I do with my happiness? How can I keep it, conceal it, bury it where I may never lose it? I want to kneel as it falls over me like rain, gather it up with lace and silk, and press it over myself again.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

The early diaries of Anais Nin

Anaïs Nin page on Amazon

. . . . . . . . . .

*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, Literary Ladies Guide receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

2 Responses to “Quotes by Anaïs Nin on Writing, Life, and Love”

  1. So happy to have found LLG through searching for an Anais Nin quotation. Thanks for all you are and do to inspire, inform, and unite writers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to The Literary Ladies Guide weekly newsletter

Celebrating women’s voices
with inspiration for readers and writers

  • Find your next great read
  • Get writing advice from authors you love
  • Enjoy fascinating facts and quotes
  • Discover women’s literary history

... and lots more (look for a bonus in your welcome letter!)
Email address
Secure and Spam free...