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?

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

  1. 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!

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    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

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  2. 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.

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    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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