I wrote letters to friends and family from the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail], but I didn’t even attempt to gather them and mine them for information as I wrote Wild. I didn’t because I sensed on a gut level that they’d be of little use to me. In my letters, I’d been trying to make an impression. I wanted to seem strong or funny or impressive, to offer evidence that I was now more together than the sort-of-falling-apart woman many of them thought I was before I set out on my hike. I wanted to seem transformed and heroic to those I wrote to. I know without reading them, my letters were hyperbolic and embellished, covertly self-aggrandizing and embarrassingly philosophical.
But my journal is none of these things. In it, I told myself the truth. Every last inch of whatever the truth might be. I didn’t attempt to cast anything in either a better or worse light. On those pages not meant for anyone’s eyes but my own I did what every memoirist must do years before I knew I’d ever become a memoirist: I gave myself a long level gaze. It was from that place I set about writing Wild.