First up, read this post. Especially all you fellow bloggers who reveal your heart in your writing, who discover and name distant beasts inside yourself through your words.
There's no need to look at this image. It's a collage of a style blogger- her name may be fillippa berg... I really just Googled 'style blogger' and hey! here she is. This is a visual filler to separate the link and the discussion... or you could imagine me twiddling my thumbs/picking at my nailpolish/sighing and fidgeting restlessly while you read and try to ignore me.
Or, 'some scenery for those who like scenery' (approximate quote, 'Our Town' Thornton Wilder)
I like the sense of disease that permeates this Q&A- as if blogging is an affliction of ailing writers with wounds so raw they have to press them against your monitor so you see and acknowledge them. There's also a very 'them' and 'us' mentality at work through it, as if 'we' bloggers and readers share in our mania and 'they' don't get it- because they don't feel the compulsion, because they are not in therapy (or don't need to be), because they don't need to think themselves out through writing.
So on that note, fellow sufferers: let's roll up our sleeves and dive in.
I write pretty much every day, sometimes more than once. I process my life there. I'm currently in intensive psychotherapy, and my therapist seems to think my semi-public journal is evidence of my inability to protect myself, to understand what is private and what is public.
I'd like to meet a writer who doesn't think through the act of writing. I have my doubts as to whether such a creature exists at all. I'm not talking about people who have to do writing as part of their job (as a matter-of-course) but those people for whom writing is essential for how else to free yourself from the fury of stories, thoughts and indistinct feelings that burn inside you? This urgency hushed and clarified through words; or writing as the lense through which we come to understand fragments of ourselves and others.
So what is public and what is private? An eternal question when it comes to writing. Don't audiences always try to glean what is 'true' and what is not in closely autobiographical work? Don't blogs just make it more intriguing? And what is the harm of putting yourself up publicly, so to speak?
This is a nervy question lying at the back of digital theory: what are the risks and implications of a life lived online? Identity theft? Laying yourself bare to bullying? Unfulfilled desire leading to further anguish ('no-one's reading!')
It seems to me that these considerations also apply to life lived offline- it's just that now there is an aspect of unknownness, because we are digital in unprecedented ways. Does that mean we shouldn't foray into the unknown? Most of the natural world has been seen and named and known now, so maybe there is something in the concept of a digital frontier- not a space to be discovered, though, but a space that comes into being as we create it.
The forum I journal in creates the sort of intimacy that my therapist thinks is false. I still am trying to put these in a category for myself. I know they feel differently from face-to-face relationships. I detest feeling like I'm being put on a pedestal or that someone is being nice to me instead of being honest, things that this Internet intimacy seems to breed. But does that mean the relationship of reader-writer is all fake?
Good question, Publicly Private (ps. love the handle. Punny.) Intimacy online- does it exist? And again, I hear a distant shriek of panic warning me away from the internet. There's that movie 'Catfish.' And internet chatrooms with 55 year-old-men pretending to be 16-year-old girls. In short, intimacy online is mediated by the very means which facilitates it, thus it can't be true intimacy, right?
Nuh. Part of what makes online intimacy so intriguing is the element of mystery inherent in it. The fact that I don't know who is reading doesn't impede me from feeling like there is a communality at work amongst us, because at this fleeting moment, we are encountering each other in this very sentence. I can be colloquial or cheeky or long-winded with you in ways that would be limited by initial shyness and the inevitable thaw as we get to know each other. Unless we click straight away, could very likely happen, especially if you too are a fashion nerd.
Do we have to see each other face-to-face to be intimate? Tell that to letter-writers. this is a central concept underpinning my thesis but in short- no.
When I have crafted something colorful that seems to cage my pain and then I carry it through the streets like an exotic bird, I do not need people to walk up to me and tell me they see the bird. They see it. I know they see it because I walk by them carrying the bird in the cage, holding it aloft.
You know people are seeing what you write because you read the hits counter. Your knowing that they see it makes it real, does it not? Is that not what we want, to know in our hearts that what we wrote is being seen?
I would also add that you don't have to know something to make it real. Those people reading your words are not brought into reality when you find out about them, but when they do the reading itself. Feeling good that they read would be predicated on knowing.
But now I'm being picky.
I wouldn't go so far as to draw a line between your writing hitting the heart of a reader and eroticism, nor would I call this activity 'sacred'. Important, interesting, a valid enterprise- yes. I also wouldn't entrench the idea that bloggers are all lonely, writing into a void to fill a void they feel within themselves. A need or a hunger is not always loneliness. This assumption demonstrates a prevalent conceit, that people who use the internet to interact socially/create and share something of themselves are cloistered social misfits sitting in contrast to the hale, healthy population out playing lacrosse and high-fiving each other underneath a cheery sun (my wan, backlit face shies away from the prospect.)
Haven't we moved beyond this facile online/offline divide? According to (online) statistics, as of the end of 2009 1.4 billion people have email accounts and there are 234 million websites; over 300 million people have Facebook accounts; Twitter has 18 million users. And 1.73 billion people use the internet*. We bank, date, shop, sell, chat, make friends, break up with people, illegally download films and music, discover new art and songs and labels, research, write, share online. How we use this technology has been folded into our every day lives and will continue to be as each generation builds on the terrain of those who preceded them. So it's not an outlying population of bleeding hearts, lonely freaks and desperate writers that make up the internet-using population, but... well... a heck of a lot of us.
Really what we are talking about is an evolving cultural practice. It is changing what constitutes a relationship.
So therapists and critics of the world, please let's stop making a false distinction between the reality and truth of what is on and offline. Let's look at what is here, what we are grappling with, and try to identify what it is rather than gasp at what could happen or make judgement calls about people who choose to live their life in full view.
writing is a sickness but a sickness that heals.