Some pages are stained from my tears. Some words are obnoxious and illegible from nights drinking. For years I wondered if my diaries would entertain anyone but me. Then I read these great diaries and then I understood the appeal:
The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Anais describes her romances and her sessions with her psychoanalyst -- analyzing herself further in the diary after her sessions. She also analyzes her friends and her relationships with them.
Anais took her diary almost everywhere with her and wrote in it throughout the day in incredible detail and candour. She was a dedicated diarist for most of her life. I must get my hands on other volumes of her diary.
Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr
Late in her life, painter Emily Carr wrote several great works of non-fiction. My favourite is this diary (or "Journal") in which she details her insecurities as an artist, her relationships with her animals and other artists. She writes about the natural beauty that inspired so much of her work and her ideas for her paintings. Very wise and emotionally mature, Emily muses on the choices, feelings and actions of the people around her, as well as her own. She also writes about her intimate every day life, her heart trouble and hospital visits.
Emily died of her illness a few years after she stopped writing in her diary. Her writing seemed to fill the void she felt after she was no longer well enough to go outdoors and paint. I highly recommend all of her writing and artwork.
The appeal I referred to is of getting inside someone's head, not of reading gossip about people. A diarist likely explores details most people don't even talk about, at least not in such great detail, let alone write about.
As a diarist, I can identify with these works from Anais and Emily. We have all felt the need to explore ourselves through writing. I don't write to an imaginary audience, but to myself to figure life out. For me, writing is thinking. Of purging. Of celebrating.
I don't want anyone to read my diaries. Ever. I want them to be burned with me when I'm dead.