On Journals, Blogging, Letters and Constructing the (Writing) Self

The other day I was trying to catch up on reading the blogs I follow. One of the first things you learn as a blogger is the need to connect with other bloggers and read their posts. It’s not as easy as it sounds especially if, like me, you discover a blog, read one or two posts then follow it because it’s so interesting and well written and the blogger sounds like an astounding person you’d love to meet one day.

One of my former colleagues believes blogging is the offshoot of the personal diary or journal. I’m not so sure.  dsc_0319
I started keeping a journal thirty years before my colleague was born and I’d never write a post that even remotely resembles my journal entries. There are some things that just shouldn’t be made public. Granted, a lot of blogs are tell-all rants about the seedy and not so seedy side of life. Plenty of bloggers share moments of misery and loss, but I question whether this means blogging and writing a journal is the same thing. I will admit bloggers, like the folk who write a journal, are in the business of ‘constructing the self’, which is academic-speak for creating a persona, a fabricated self a blogger feels comfortable about appearing on a screen thousands of kilometres from home. I believe, however, that the self I have constructed for my blog is more carefully drawn than the self that inhabits the abandoned pages of my journals.

The other reason I don’t think writing a blog post is the same as writing a journal entry is because I feel blog posts are similar to letters. I have 80 or more followers (thank you, one and all) and I probably follow as many blogs. Not all my readers read all of my posts and I certainly don’t read every blog I follow – while I was catching up the other day I was interrupted – but, as all writers are admonished, I believe most of us learn to write, as much as possible, for our readers. This means, in the case of a blog post, writing so our readers feel it was written specifically for them.  Blogging, in much the same way as writing a novel, and unlike journal writing, is about supply and demand, specifically meeting the demands of readers. Yes, there are plenty of instances where journal writers share their private musings (or they are read, often clandestinely, by lovers, intrusive parents or inquisitive siblings) but bloggers want to be read, they want to form connections, they want to be shared.

Bloggers develop blogging friendships. I certainly have, and I’ve renewed old relationships (Hi, Kathy), so I often feel as if I’m writing a letter to my friends.   dsc_0323Not a newsy, chatty letter about the family’s latest escapades, but a letter that shares my ideas, the issues that concern me, my interest in therapeutic writing … which raises another point …

… is blogging therapeutic? I think it can be; shaping an event or feeling and sharing it with others can, if handled well,  help with healing. I doubt many bloggers feel they are alone in the world; for most of us there will be someone out there who’s interested in what we have to say, who reads what we write and who cares. Keeping a journal, while it helped in many ways, didn’t stop me from feeling alone, which is what writing for no one but oneself can do. My journal became a self-fulfilling rehash of personal (often self-induced) misery, which is why, despite intending to, I barely referred to my journals when I wrote my memoir.

The woman who wrote those journals is a mere echo of the woman I am now and I am an echo of the woman I will be. janetp03Blogging, as confessional and personal as it might be,  is a larger act of rebellion than writing a private journal ever was and believe me, I thought journal writing was truly rebellious. I was even advised by one counsellor to stop because she believed it would harm my relationship.

It’s hard to grasp exactly how massive the ‘blogosphere’ is, let alone imagine how many mega-millions of words are written and shared via blog posts. I am nevertheless content in my minuscule corner of it. I have readers, bloggers and otherwise, that I feel obligated to, not in an onerous, ‘dear me is it time to write another post?’ way, but  in a ‘I wonder what so and so is up to, and if they’d be interested in …’ way. More importantly, and this is a revelation born of knowing I do have readers, I look forward to sharing the (constructed) self who writes my blog; a self now past middle-age, an occasionally confused writer, by turns cynical and sentimental who is grateful to be a part of a sphere where readers and writers are not afraid to be whatever self they choose.

What about you? Are you writing a personal journal that you make public, a letter to far flung or nearby friends or something else entirely?

24 thoughts on “On Journals, Blogging, Letters and Constructing the (Writing) Self

  1. Hi again Janet,
    Just revisiting my previous reply to your posting. Please accept my apologies for the facebook analogy.
    The recent comment from Mark Zuckerberg re the recent Facebook blip made me think. Mark commented that users need to act responsibly which I feel I do, however his comments about the number of friends you can realistically manage is quite small (can’t remember figures now). I need to revisit Facebook & scale things down and focus on my writing. It may have been Facebook I had reached stalemate with and not blogging, who knows?

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  2. Hi again Janet,
    Working my way around this site. Came across a post I wrote just before coming here & labelled it vulnerable people 2. When I read it now it seems journal like as I wonder if it is too personal. It was useful to revisit though to see what a hectic state things were in before I left.
    Would appreciate your thoughts Janet.

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    1. I’ll take a look, Margaret.
      … I Just read the post and it is lovely. I felt a real sense of longing, remembrance and excitement. I could not find a way to comment, however. Maybe your site needs a little tweaking?
      Can’t wait to read more, Janet

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Janet,
    This article has helped me to understand why I have reached writing stalemate. Only wrote one piece in my blog so far and responded to another blogger’s posting. Perhaps I need to review my journaling practice.

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    1. Hello Margaret, I rarely visit my blog so it was lovely to see your comments on a post that feels quite remote from me. My blog will stay online only until June and will then disappear, probably forever. I don’t think you need to change your journaling habits, or anything about your writing, or yourself. I’ve decided we place far too much pressure on ourselves to fulfill an ‘ideal’ or an ‘image’ of what a writer is, or who they should be. Blogging tends to support this … bloggers become online ‘personalities’ who are rewarded (or fed) by their readers (however few there may or may not be) and then we morph into that image. As a result it’s hard to be authentic. I’ve withdrawn from that so I can write, so I can experience what it is ‘to write’. I prefer the verb form, I prefer saying ‘I write’ rather than ‘I am a writer’ (though sometimes I forget to do so). What I have learned is that to write is to experience fear, dark times and doubts. It is to ask a thousand questions about the right to write, the ability to write, the nerve to write and belief in one’s writing. I’m currently in a slump and struggling with all of the above, but it’s not a matter of whether or not I am struggling, it’s a matter of how tumultuous or arduous the struggle feels at any given moment. On good days the struggle is muted, manageable; on bad days, like today, like the last few weeks, the struggle feels like a fight to the death. I think all writers, whether they keep a journal or write best sellers and have their books made into award winning films, struggle the way you do, the way I do. What’s important to know is that the struggle is worth it. Why? Because we are human are creative beings; we were born to create poems, songs, sculptures, buildings, theatre and the secret to doing that is the process, the making, not the end product or who sees it. I hope this helps you with your quest to create interesting, lively, entertaining stories about your travels. In response to your quest for email contact, I am protective of my privacy and my time so I apologise but I am happy to chat via the blog only. Cheers, Janet

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Janet,
        Somewhere along the line I have missed this comment. Perhaps it says a lot about blogging & me. Since picking up on another bloggers article my inbox seems to be inundated with related comments. I do share articles of inerest, ‘feel good’ captions and private messages on Facebook. It has been good for viewing spring flowers etc while I am away from home. Somehow this site has echoes of Facebook which isn’t a criticism of the site but of me. I have a tendency to get carried away & think ‘oh, I must return to that’ or then link into something else.
        I understand you protecting your privacy which I certainly would not assume & I guard mine also. I misunderstood your reply to my comment re your last blog when you mentioned following me on the blog till the end of June or by e mail. I will comment on your recentbreply after reflection Janet.
        Thanks

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      2. So funny Janet,
        Just replied to you and clicked on my bell (same process used in future learn courses I do but coloured square shows at side of bell to indicate a comment. Technology!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a VERY good question. At first I wrote to “practice writing” and see if I was interested enough to pursue writing for real. But as soon as I got comfortable with it I started noticing how many people on here were just reaching out for someone to talk to. So I switched to spreading pixie dust. I must say I have found that extremely fulfilling. The listening to folks, commenting, asking questions, connecting, etc. has truly met my need to socialize while I’m mostly stuck at home without a car. And I also get a kick out of sending folks to other bloggers’ sites I think they’re a good match for.

    This was such a comprehensive article! You covered it perdy dern well, Janet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘I switched to spreading pixie dust…’ how true, Calen, but I think it is more than just pixie dust. You share your loving acceptance of all human beings and wise words, both lessons I need, in every one of your posts. Thanks again for (all) your comments.

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      1. Hi Janet, Calen must have been doing her thing as that’s how I came to find you.

        I read this post with interest, and agree with what you said, that blogs are more than personal diaries, although there are a few that do seem so. Like watchingthedaisies, the blog has evolved from its original intent, but part of the reason for that is because of the nature of the readers. You start to feel a responsibility toward them to produce something worth reading (if only).

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      2. Hello, Safar. I’ve only just seen this comment; I apologise for not finding it earlier. I appreciate you taking the time to write. I agree with your comment about feeling responsible for your readers and giving them something to think about (and something worthy, but all writers doubt at times that we do that!). Best wishes, Janet

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a thoughtful blog! My blogging started as onething and turned into another! While I occasionally post something personal, my blog is mostly creative writing: a mix of poetry, prose, the odd rambles of thoughts or recollections but very very distinct from the personal journals I keep. Im not aware that I have crated an online persona but I do trust that the writing holds the feelings and emotions so that readers will have a certain perception of me. Therapeutic? definitely if only because I can look back and trace changes. But it is distinct from therapeutic writing. Journalling and blogging are distinct modes of working for me. I am always aware of the readers for a blog, aware of what they think they know about me, know what some of them know about me. Im writing a short story at the moment and Im worried about it; worried that readers will see more into it than there is, or fail to get it.or that they will think its real life, when it is not. Thank you for helping me crystallise my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your comment about tracing back through your writing and seeing the changes, Anne. I also agree that journalling and blogging are distinct. I hope you found a way through and out of the issues with your short story. We can’t do a lot about what our readers will ‘read into’ our stories, but being aware of what we’re trying to share with them is good practice.

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