The Diary of David Sedaris Hilarious journal entries provide fodder for new book

I could listen to David Sedaris read from his diary for hours. He’s been keeping a log of his life since 1977. Early diary entries are painful, Sedaris describes, because he would write about his feelings. “I never write about my feelings anymore; I don’t think I have them.”

Sedaris has amassed enough entries to publish in his next book. These aren’t your typical drudge of daily reporting. Sedaris’s brain works in clever quips, and he can turn any situation into a quick-witted retelling.

“I always wonder what people do when they don’t write,” Sedaris said. “What do they do with all that?”

For Sedaris, it seems, everything is a story; it’s in the telling.

Sedaris, who has sold 10 million books worldwide in 29 countries, is a rock star of literature. With only his words and wit, he hits 44 cities every spring and fall, and appeared in Billings at the Alberta Bair Theater on Nov. 2. Considered one of the great American humorists of our time, Sedaris is incredibly approachable, staying after each reading to sign books till the line is gone.

What is most striking about Sedaris’s writing is how pleasing it sounds to the ear. His works read as though they were meant to be read out loud.

“I used to write for me to read out loud, but now I write for anyone to read aloud,” Sedaris said. “I hope that the breaks are in there, that all the signposts tell you where to pause and when to speed up. I hope that is written onto the page.”

This was my first time sitting with Sedaris, listening to him read from his body of work and share stories of his experiences—most centered on family. “Every time I walk away from my family I have a story,” Sedaris said.

I felt so normal listening to Sedaris. Since first stumbling into Naked, I’ve amassed his entire collection, reading and rereading each book for laughter, for style, to relate, to find comfort, and to just cuddle up with such well-written works.

And, as a practicing writer, I felt quite hopeful. “When you’re young, you start off copying other people. It’s normal—you do the same thing as an artist. You paint like so-and-so, and eventually you forgive yourself.”

During each tour, Sedaris gives a shout-out to a writer. Plugging Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, he continued, “I will never be able to write like Akhil Sharma. Boy I admire him, but I’m myself and at some point you accept yourself. You try to do the best you can.”

Ahh, such poignancy. Add a little wit, and his advice was complete: “I’ll do what I do and he’ll do what he does, and at the end of the day we’ll see who’s rich.”

Dear Future Self A letter from your biggest fan

At age 35, I quit my job. It was a good job. I was paid well. I worked with a team of hard-working, intelligent people whom I respected. I had female boss that inspired me. I had a generous 401K and great health benefits. We had decent company parties. I traveled a lot. And I loved it.

Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was afraid to ask myself, “What do you want? Who do you want to be? What do you want to spend your life’s moments on?”

When I finally answered those questions, there was no choice. I had to quit my job.

Recently I was invited to attend a Girl Scout Brownie troop meeting to talk to the girls about writing their personal stories. I decided to have them write a letter to their future self.

I asked the girls to imagine their hopes and dreams, to think about the places they want to visit or the jobs and activities that that make them the most excited. I asked them to think about something they really want to do, even if it scares or intimidates them. Even if they’re afraid of someone making fun of them. Then to set those fears aside and imagine what they would do if they could do anything.

In the future, they are artists. They are teachers. They garden for people who can’t. They volunteer at the Food Bank. They are dancers, models, world travelers, homeowners, mothers, and wives. There wasn’t a lid on their dreams.

I too wrote a letter to my future self. In the future, I am published. I am not broke. I am not crazy for walking away from a job to write. And I write every day.

As I read out loud the last line from my letter to the girls, “You are strong. You are beautiful. You are brilliant. I am so proud of you,” one Girl Scout flexed her arms, repeated the chant, kissed her flexed biceps, and laughed. So we all did. We all chanted.

It’s inspiring what young girls can dream up. It’s humbling what they say when they’re asked to find their chant.

“I’m courageous.”

“I’m awesome.”

“I’m considerate.”

“I’m kind.”

“I’m funny.”

“I’m generous.”

“I love myself.

“I’m beautiful with my freckles.”

“I’m creative.”

“I’m wonderful.”

“I’m powerful and good.”

Below is the entirety of my letter, as well as images of the girl’s letters and drawings to their future selves. (For more on letters to your future self, see Kelly McGonigal​’s site).

Dear Future Self,

It’s admirable this life you’ve built. It was when you became so clear about what you wanted in life and love that you could see the path and take it when it mattered most. It wasn’t easy, but you were patient. You were deliberate. You knew that to achieve your dreams you had to focus.

The books you wanted to write, the way that you wanted to live—in moments, not in debt but in love with life, with the people in your life, with the choices in your life—you manifested this. You published your first book because you gave the writing life a chance.

You knew that you were going to struggle, but that was the only way. You knew people would not understand, that not everyone would like what you do or what you write, and that it was okay not to be universally loved.

You are strong. You are brilliant. You are beautiful. I am so proud of you.

Signed,

35-year-old Anna