I recently had a twitter conversation with Australian blogging royalty, Trevor Young. He reminded me that in the 1990s blogging was called journalling, which evokes images of hormonally confused teenage girls writing about boys and bitchy girls.
It is an important distinction. Journalling implies something deeply personal, something from the heart written with integrity, authenticity and for an audience of one. Blogging on the other hand can be something deeply personal or not it is entirely up to the writer. A blog is written for an audience, of one, one hundred, or one thousand. The best blogs are written with an audience in mind but without pandering to that audience. They are written to say something important to the writer and hopefully interesting or challenging to the reader.
What’s important here is the notion of integrity and authenticity. Often in the leap from journal to blog the threat of the audience impedes creativity and expression, leaving a pale and soulless piece of writing that offers nothing except some pixels on a page. Something written with integrity and authenticity matters, anything else is likely to read like a dull Linked In profile. I’m awesome, read some comments from my friends and then hire me. A journal is rarely inauthentic.
In the 1990’s I had a digital diary that is now (thankfully) long lost. It was an early experiment in using the Internet to publish, communicate, delight, and terrify. Unfortunately, I published poetry about drinking in bars that won a few fans from America and the land of lovers of bad vodka soaked poetry. What felt transgressive then – the sharing of personal stuff in public, is now common. Everyday millions of people log in and share their innermost feelings, photos, and gifs of kittens without blinking. Some of these feelings would be best left unshared, left for a drunken conversation in a bar rather than preserved online for eternity, or for as long as Facebook is a viable business.
The 1960’s catch-cry “The personal is political” has changed to “The personal is now public”. Every utterance is logged, deconstructed and used to hone a marketing message based on a profile. Jonothan likes cats, the Internet, and Mexican food. Tracey likes dancing, Asos, and casual racism.
Nothing is hidden.
The Internet and the personal spaces we create in its networks are what French philosopher Michel Foucault calls heterotopias. A heterotopia is a “a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted”. On the Internet we present ourselves in a simultaneously real and mythical way. It is a mirror of how we want to see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
Only by disassembling the stream of status updates, searching, poking, posturing, and instagramming (or is that flickring?) into a blog can the inherent anxieties of a digital life be expressed and released. A blog, or a journal is a way of contesting and inverting the self created by the presence or absence of any membership in the myriad of social platforms. It is a map that allows a topology of meaning to be articulated and understood or misunderstood depending on the goals of the writer.
Having a personal blog is a free expression of what you are and how you matter unencumbered by the commercial concerns of marketers looking to gather, graph, and sell. It is the one piece of virtual space you can own; in your own words. It is a place where any inauthentic grab for fame and glory will be quickly recognised and dismissed. A blog is a place just for you – and a billion potential readers.
Creating a blog and updating it regularly insides creativity and makes you smarter. There is a technique called Artist Pages, or Morning Pages, where every morning you sit down and write a stream of unedited words, totaling three pages. The idea is to get out any angst, drama, or blockages and create a space for ideas to flow for the rest of the day. I don’t recommend a blog be used for a stream of consciousness dump, unless you want to, but a blog works the same way for framing ideas and concepts in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Blogging is self-help for your brain.
Be yourself and get a blog. It will change your life.