October 24, 2003

journal-to-blog and why

I’ve spent too much time the past few days reading various online journal accounts about JournalCon, or, as it was known this year, the Web Writer’s Weekend. I find myself oddly removed from the experience. I say odd because I registered for the conference last year and was disappointed when I had to cancel. Odd too because I started my first online journal in 1999, just around the corner from now but practically the Jurassic era when it comes to online writing. Back then, I cared about the Community. I saw the popular journallers as cool kids, rock stars, celebrities. I desperately wanted Diarist Awards. But when I got a few nominations and even won one (or two? I think two), when the cool kids started learning my name and my site, it stopped mattering so much. I realized it was a relatively small, insular community and that everyone was just us folks. Which in fact all celebrities are. Movie stars, rock stars, big name politicians. They squabble with their spouses and brush their teeth and tie their shoes the same as everyone else. I’ve come to realize that too, over time. I’ve met people with real-world success and seen their personal struggles and recognized a kind of comforting universality in that. But now reading many of the JournalCon reports, I see a kind of giggly “I’m meeting YOU! And ohmygod, you know who I am!” astonishment about other journallers that amazes me. I understand it, I guess, but it seems… well… young. Innocent. Self-deprecating. It makes me a little sad even though it probably shouldn’t.

I should add, though, that there’s a group who went – Melissa, Eliza, Kymm, Mo and their cohorts – and I’d have loved to have stayed up late gossiping and talking and joking with them all. There are several journallers, some who went and more who didn’t, that I’d love to have met and gotten to know. And now that I’m entering the blogoverse, I’m discovering a whole new set of writers I’d like to meet. So I understand the impulse to go to these things, definitely. It just felt odd to read those gushing, star-struck self-doubting entries.

I’ve been thinking too about journals – my journal, old and new – versus weblogs – my weblog, brand new. My first journal, visions and revisions, started as an experiment in telling personal stories, slice of life but with a shape to each essay. I loved it and through it I learned that I love writing narrative prose. With time, though, the personal became more personal, more revealing, more, well, therapeutic. And that felt uncomfortable. Why do we reveal ourselves to strangers online? For the attention? So we feel less alone? Because it’s easier than talking to friends? Why is that? How is that? It’s an odd phenomenon, the kind of thing that starts to fall apart if you examine it too closely. Which I started to do.

But then my son was diagnosed with a developmental disorder and the journal had a new purpose. Which it still has, though under a new name. I know from some rather extraordinary (and much appreciated) feedback that my site has helped other parents going through the same thing and so it feels important to continue writing of that journey even when I wanted to pull back from writing online at all. Pull back from being so open to so many people.

Why am I back, then? Why in this form? Why now? Do I need the same things from it? I don’t think so. I think this serves a new function. I haven’t defined the need yet – I suspect, as has happened before, that the need will define itself – but I think I can define what I want to do with this weblog. I want to talk about what I think. Not (or mostly not) what I do with my daily life but my thoughts and observations on my life and others’. The weblog format is perfect for this. Quick, succinct if appropriate, so easy to link to other people’s words and reflect on them with my own. And the community I see in the blog world– or rather, the many interlocking communities – they intrigue me. It often feels like an ongoing roundtable dialogue on various issues and I love that and hope to be part of that conversational flow. I also hope to capture my thoughts about various aspects of my life: writing a novel, losing weight, finding the right school placement for my son (which entails many thoughts about the purposes of education, I’m sure). All that and undoubtedly more. It’s still my life, still about me, but perhaps less intimate than it was before. My world redefined, broadened to include the rest of the universe.

Posted by Tamar at October 24, 2003 10:48 PM

Tamar, one day we will get that chance to stay up late and gossip!

Also -- I'm just so glad you're writing online regularly. In case I have not told you that yet!

Posted by: Eliza at October 27, 2003 09:26 AM

I agree with Eliza...I enjoy you writing on a regular basis very much! I think that it's hard to figure out what the venue is for the online journal...what are we trying to say and who are we trying to say it to? I read many journals before I ever began keeping my own...I know the kinds of things people write about, but I find myself constantly struggling to find something to write about that I want to say but I don't think is too depressing for anyone who might read...so then who am I writing for? Anyway, thanks.

Posted by: Rachel at October 28, 2003 07:58 AM

Well, I'll see you at Christmas!

Posted by: Kymm at October 31, 2003 08:54 PM