I missed my chance to play on Problogger Darren Rowse's blog a second time - dangit, a girl's gotta sleep, sometime - but realized I had a ready-made post from 2005 on the topic he explored this morning:
Originally posted on Vox as Naked Thoughts in Public?
Or, First Day: a Response to "Last Day" and updated periodically over the next few years...
Why not reveal all your naked thoughts in public? Well, I'll tell you why not...
Do you really want your neighbors knowing you're thinking of poisoning their dog? Boffing their teenaged daughter? Ripping the arm off a co-worker and beating him over the head with it? Yeah, there's such a thing as "too much information" (TMI, in the blogosphere), and personally, I think it takes all the fun and suspense out of it.
Do you really want the world to know what a pathetic, boring life you lead? "I know I've been neglecting this blog a lot, lately. I just can't think of anything to write. But since you're still reading, I'm going to ramble on for 10,000 words about having nothing to say." Gee, thanks.
Do you really want your readers to see you as the cynical, jaded bitch goddess or snarky technophile? (Yes!! Yes!! Oooh, baby - er, 'scuse me. I got a little overexcited by the sound of my own fingers on the keyboard.) That's so last year.
Do you really want to come across as a whiny, immature baby who can't spell or string two words (subject, verb) together to make a coherent sentence? (Hell, your friends already know you, so why hide what you are?) Oops - that was a little cynical, jaded, and snarky of me. Sorry.
But this is what happens when we don't self-censor. Writing honestly doesn't mean disemboweling ourselves on the page for public entertainment. Does it "breed vanity, self-indulgence, narcissism, self-centredness"? I contend that it only reveals the author's character - if we are vain, self-indulgent, narcissistic, and self-centered, that's likely to come across loud and clear on the page. And if we expose and explore it honestly (so, I'm not Mother Theresa), maybe we'll improve with time. "Big brother eyes"? They're called "readers." And that squirmy feeling you get, knowing they're out there, waiting for their comments? That's called "accountability." Write honestly, and you've nothing to fear - right?
If the blog (which still sounds like a gastrointestinal disorder, to me) is just a place to "hang out" or record one’s private, innermost thoughts, maybe it should be a private, pen-and-paper diary. If it's a place to hang out in public, then it’s got a different purpose, or serves more than one. Here are some of mine, circa 2005:
- It keeps me writing regularly, even when I don't have a story or a poem inside me. Sometimes, the act of writing about my day, my thoughts, and my feelings will spark a story idea or inspire a poem. It’s a good way to get unblocked, or prevent a case of writer’s block from becoming crippling. (Update 2006: WTF was I thinking? I don't believe in writer's block. Never did. And "crippling"? Could we get any more melodramatic? Okay, so blogging is a form of discipline. If I don't write anything Pulitzer-worthy, I have to blog about my day and risk public humiliation for admitting that I've done nothing, lately, that inspires a bestselling novel. Thus, blogging becomes a harsh reminder to "GET A LIFE!" Perhaps if we lived as if we were going to blog about it, we'd live more interesting lives.)
- It helps me to feel connected. Reading others’ journals and their responses to mine reminds me that no matter what, I’m not alone. By encouraging others to comment on my journal, I can’t sit here and wallow in private misery when I’m feeling rotten. I can get it out of my system, then get a little understanding, a little empathy, a little insight, and a much-needed kick in the seat of the pants. (Update 2006: Have you ever gotten a cramp in your thigh from kicking yourself in the ass? Ouch. "Helps me to stay connected..." Wow. Given that I'm an only child who craves solitude like most people crave oxygen, and never get enough of it, what was I thinking when I wrote that? Okay, maybe I should have been a bit more honest: "I like knowing that people read what I write. For the love of G-d, leave a comment so I don't gnaw off my fingers.")
- It saves going out and seeking advice. Readers are very generous with that.
- I love getting emails from people who read what I write. Good, bad, doesn't matter - it's a conversation starter. (Update 2006: Okay, so the one comment that went something like "This is the most boring crap I've ever read, and if I pay you will you please stop right now?" got to me - a little - until Anonymous's check bounced.)
- It saves having to answer the same questions twenty times. It lets me answer in as much depth as I want to, without monopolizing friends’ time. “How was your day?”
“Fine, how was yours?”
“That’s good.” You’ll never see that in my journal. It's a little like the Christmas card letter, only it comes out more often and you only have to read it if you want to. (Update 2006: This is Karma in action, folks. We used to make fun of people who sent out Christmas card letters.)
I do think I have an obligation to not bore you to tears, if you’re reading this. I don’t necessarily write it to entertain you, but if it isn’t interesting to you, I hope you won’t feel obligated to keep reading.
Bloggers really ought to write with the realization that someone's out there reading. Spelling, grammar, punctuation - those are important elements of communication. Self-censorship? A little governor on the mental regurgitation might be a wise thing, but there's nothing more boring than a blog that is completely spit-polished and sanitized. I bookmark blogs that communicate honestly and convey a sense of the person who's writing them. Did I feel anything, while reading? Empathy? Amusement? Anything? Did what I read provoke a thought or two, beyond, "Gee, I wonder if the contents of the fridge have changed or rearranged themselves in the last fifteen minutes?"
I find, to my delight, that no matter what I write, there's always someone weirder out there.
The blog is also a nice little roadmap to life's ups and downs, and can be useful in identifying patterns, if I'm fairly faithful and honest in writing about it. If nothing else, it serves to remind me that even when I'm in the pits of despair, tomorrow's likely to be a better day.
Isn’t Anything Sacred or Private?
My blog is completely honest. By virtue of it being my blog, it is also completely biased. It’s my take on my life. (I never lie in it, though I will admit to occasional dramatization or committing the sin of omission, when I feel someone else's privacy would be violated in a way that's not compassionate or respectful or deserved. Hah! Yes, let's add "deserved.") In other words, I try to play fair. Some things shouldn't even go in the pen-and-paper diary, in my opinion - they should be written down and ceremoniously burned. (I wouldn't want to go to jail for libel, or ruin someone's life because I was having a really bad day and felt like ripping them to shreds or spilling their secrets. Honesty is not synonymous with pettiness and mean-spiritedness.)
I don't blog about the intimate details of my marriage and family life, nor do I share confidences revealed to me by others - so long as they're not off blabbing them to everyone they know. (As one of my coworkers once said, "If you don't respect your own 'secrets,' why should I?)
I don't generally talk about work. (Did I mention I try not to bore my readers to tears? I also hate having to preface my posts with, "This does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer...") But beyond that, I really have few, if any, secrets or taboos when it comes to writing. That's the scary thing about us writers - we will write damned near anything. What's "personal" to some is just fodder for the page, for us.
A Semi-Permanent Record of Our Existence
The more interested I get in genealogy, the more I wish some of my relatives had left a journal of their daily lives.
Hey, it's better than defacing the pyramids with insipid tripe like, "Holly was here!"