**a slight rant on the limitations and boundaries of blogging**
When I was twelve and about to start the 7th grade, my Aunt Amy drove to where I was visiting at my grandma’s house and handed me a yellow book with a cartoon drawing of ceramic pots and pretty pink and blue flowers stretching out of them on its cover.
“This is a journal,” she explained with a smile, handing the book over to me. I was sitting on the couch, an awkward, skinny, boyish tween, half there and half not, in an interesting mood. Mom and I had been discussing the possibility of me going back to public school earlier that morning – all that week, really – and the conversation (though hopefully inconclusive) hadn’t ended exactly the way that I wanted it to. I had spent the last two years being home schooled, and I was completely and thoroughly sick of the isolation, loneliness, and self-taught lessons I had to administer.
“I don’t know if you’re going to be homeschooled again this year or if your mom is going to let you go back to public school, but whatever happens, you can use this.” She smiled again and sat down next to me. I knew that Amy planned on homeschooling her son, Christian, who was not even a year old yet, but I appreciated her just mentioning both schooling options as possibilities.
I thanked her and smiled. “What are you supposed to do with a journal?” I asked.
“Well,” she began in a lower tone of voice, “you can do a lot of things, really. You could probably use it to help you with school – write down study notes, definitions, lesson plans..” I squirmed a little, sickened by the idea of teaching myself another year of subjects. “..or,” she continued, “you can use it to write about your feelings. Places you go, people you meet, things that happen.”
I nodded my head, interested.
“Will other people read what I’ve written?” I asked hesitantly.
“Not if you don’t let them,” she replied, her eyes sparkling. “The idea with journaling is that you can be as honest as you want to be. It’s the truest expression of yourself. Never be afraid to write what you feel, what you believe, what makes you happy.”
And so it began. At the age of 12, journaling officially became “my thing.”
I’m not sure exactly how the conversation with my aunt went that afternoon.. I’ve fictionalized most of it because of my lack of memory, but with the words I used in her conversation to me, I’ve painted the picture of what journaling meant to me at that time, what I immediately recognized it to be: a diary. But it came to mean and encompass so much more than just a “diary.”
Looking back, the contents of my first journal (with the yellow cover and painted flowers, no more than 120 pages in it’s entirety) were very simple and reserved. I talked about events and things, mostly; less about my feelings, ideas and observations and more of what I heard, felt, and saw. The content of my writing was, in other words, concrete-based.. factual.
One line reads:
“Dylan sneezed during the pledge of allegiance today.” I must have found that amusing.
“I had the usual for lunch today, pizza and choc. milk.” I chronicled my daily routine in great detail, from breakfast to the bus ride to school, and from the homework assignments I received to what I watched on television later that evening (and what I ate with it).
Yet another line:
“Church was okay today, Grammy made spaghetti for lunch afterwards.”
Simple stuff. It sounds uninteresting to you, I’m sure, but reading it almost ten years later is fascinating to me. Simple sentences like “I had the usual for lunch today, pizza and chocolate milk” bring back vivid images, smells and feelings — it’s like I’m able to tap into the state of mind I possessed back then and remember what it was like to be young, sitting in a deafiningly loud cafetaria, surrounded by the only legitimate girl friends I’ve ever had, with an incredibly delicious piece of cheap, frozen pizza in front of me and a cold carton of chocolate milk within the reach of my left hand. I can almost remember what it was like when the biggest decision of the day was whether to play football with the boys or walk the track with the girls (like a normal girl) during PE.
Then, around the time that I wrote my second journal — the beginning of 8th grade — things got more interesting. I would write sideways and upside down, all along the edges of the journal, in small letters and coded abbreviations, recording the details of my girlfriends’ drama, the things that made me blush, and small, secret crushes of my own. My journal became more of a serious matter — more of a confidant.
Then journals 3-7 just sort of all blend together. I became increasingly serious and open and began to dwell on feelings and ideas and beliefs more than concrete events and happenings themselves. Spiritual undertones belted from the pages and girly, teenage emotions spilled out from the ink that I applied in alternatingly light, pretty strokes and jagged, heavy movements. I became the wisest girl in the world (in my own eyes), full of drama, prose and a deep, spiritual burden for humanity and the world.
Journals 8-10 grew much more mellow in their nature, and I can say, without exaggerating even a bit, that everything that I wrote in those journals was completely honest. I laid myself bare, in a simple sort of way, and wrote with a sort of abandon, not worrying about who might come behind me and read my private entries or view me differently because of them.
And then, in the summer of 2010, when I left my home and all that I knew and drove myself to NY, I started blogging.
Blogging is a completely different sort of thing. It’s kind of like a public diary that you keep, writing rants and stories and articles on the internet, sometimes accompanied by pictures and other links/ media forms.
Some people write what I would call “specialty” or themed blogs: on their traveling adventures, food inventions, or crafty “how-to’s.” I know of one relatively famous internet blogger who has literally spent years building up her fan base by commenting on every featured blog and referring viewers to her website, where she talks about the same story in every single post: a man she broke up with and how he has humiliated and pissed her off beyond belief. I believe her. She seems prettttttty pissed. Break-ups can be hard, no doubt.. and I know the emotional and spiritual baggage can take a while to sort through.. but the length of her single-themed blog is incredibly impressive.
And because I’m just your average Joe – with no obsessive hobbies or magnificient talents or earth-shattering breakups in my past – I decided that my blog’s general purpose would be to write about me: my thoughts, my feelings, the events that I experience and the different life stages that I pass through. I never imagined that it (blogging) would become a distraction.
Blogging has been good for me — in ways. I’ve enjoyed reading other writer’s works, getting to know them, widening my point of view — I mean, you can read blogs from all over the world! (I’m telling you, a blogger, this, as if you didn’t already know). The problem I’ve run into is that I just don’t have time for it and journaling.
Initially, I sort of balanced the two: wrote personal-personal stuff in my tangible journal and typed away about the random, funny, infuriating things that occured day after day and published them as blog posts. Sometimes I’d borrow from the two – handwrite something fantastic I had typed into my journal, or set my journal onto a table and type the contents I had written into an artificially lit publishing box that made it into public material.
But soon, I got lazy. Tired. Handwriting took awhile, and I might as well just keep it all in one place – on the internet – where it can’t really get lost or destroyed as easy as one, single, handheld journal could. Right?
So I stopped journaling. I wrote maybe three short, abbreviated entries last year; two around the time my brother passed away and one after a petty little fight Chris and I got into one evening (over something very small, extremely trivial and totally insignificant). Blogging became the all-in-one, the platform for sharing my funny stories, life updates, and for sorting through all of my personal and spiritual and emotional issues.
Recently, after a haitus from all forms of writing (novel updates, blogging, journaling and otherwise), I realized that I made an error.
Using blogging as my main source of writing was a mistake. Here’s why.
The charms of journaling:
it’s completely personal.
it’s valuable, because there is only one copy of it.
I complimented blogging earlier because of how accessible and safe your writings are, but that sort of takes away from the preciousness of the writing.. don’t you think?
I used blogging as my record keeper, my personal, watered-down, public diary, and it was like plugging a hole with play-doh. Journaling – handwriting what was important and significant to me – fulfilled something huge: it gave me validation, offered me an environment where I could enjoy complete freedom of speech and thought, and allowed me the absolutely precious ability of honestly evaluating and deeply understanding myself.
While blogging about my life on the internet during the last few years, I’ve had to censor myself constantly and really forgot the point of it all: expression. relief. recordkeeping.
I offended and upset some people, the few family and friends who did read my blog, because of how open I was in my writing. As time has gone on, I’ve changed as a person — that’s normal, right? My core beliefs, thoughts, morals and views have all changed drastically and will, I assume, continue to do so. It’s hard for some people to understand, accept and respect me along with the aspects of me that have changed. I guess that, for now, it’s better left a private matter.. for their peace of mind, and for my own. It was difficult to honestly evaluate myself and where I was standing because of the social pressures that came along with blogging. I’d want to mention some things, but didn’t feel it would be right to — I wanted to take a stand on some issues and offer my opinion on some topics, but I was afraid of the reception I’d meet and the shock I’d inspire. People aren’t ready to accept and embrace me with my changes, and as of right now, I’m not even sure how far the changes are taking me and how long it’ll take to get there. Maybe it’s even just a big, circular track I’m traveling on. I can’t really tell.
I, just like you, need the freedom to think, grow, and reach decisions, and private, personal journaling can afford just the audience and companionship that I need to do so, whereas public blogging can not. That isn’t to say that the process of growing and making decisions is an exclusively personal sort of thing — outside influences, opinions, advice and experience can be super helpful! It’s just that, sometimes, they can seem extremely overpowering.
That said, blogging definitely has its virtues. It connects you with myriads of people and it’s fun, getting to know them and allowing them the insight into who YOU are, what YOU’RE like, what YOU like to do…
Blogging just has it’s limitations, and should have its boundaries. That’s all.
Until the next rant/post,