To Journal … or not to Journal?

I’ve always been a diary-keeper.  Since I was fourteen, I’ve religiously kept a journal.  On busy weeks it might just be one entry, on holiday I would write every night.  I wrote about every detail of my life – from the boy I was crushing on, to how fat I was feeling, to what I wanted to be when I grew up…

Thirteen years later, and while I haven’t grown up, stopped crushing on boys, or occasionally feeling fat … I appear to have finally finished journalling.  I kept a diary for eleven years.  There are literally hundreds of them in a box in my attic –   the ins and outs of my youth, documented in page after page of self-absorbed, angst-ridden teenage waffle.  And then I began to write fiction properly … and I stopped writing about my own life.

I guess I just realised that I only need a certain amount of writing in my day-to-day life, and that these days that quota is used up by fiction writing … and now, between books, by blogging.

But the thing is, fiction writing isn’t like writing a journal. For reasons I have discussed in blog posts (see The 7 Sins of Fiction Writing, and Writing From The Heart) in my opinion, the best fiction is just that … fictional.  If you let too much reality tinge the imaginative side of your work, you actually impede your own creativity.

So where should the true outlet for my need to vent be?  Should I use my blog?

Now this is where I may well alienate a large amount of my readership … because I don’t believe that a blog should be an online journal!

Before you block my blogsite, and report me for an improper attitude towards blogging, bear with me.

I’m not saying blogs shouldn’t be about people.  As you’ll have noticed, at least two of the blogs I’ve spoken about in my blog are about people – Mikalee Byerman’s blog about her life after divorce, and ‘The Becoming Year’ – a blog by Abigail about the year she had given herself to make major changes in her life.

What I’m saying is that autobiographical journal-like blogs work when you are detailing a specific area of your life.

Love lives, weight-loss, job issues … all can be interesting and helpful to readers, if sold as just that – a blog about my appalling love life, a blog about my attempts to lose 10 stone, a blog full of notes from my retard boss….

What I don’t agree with, is just keeping a journal online for all the world to see.

Because I don’t really understand why anyone would want to read it?  And why you would want everyone to read it?  Wasn’t that why the diaries we were given as children had crappy decorative locks on them?

I know, in the age of Facebook, that that might seem a rather short-sighted explanation, but Facebook isn’t a journal.  It’s a carefully crafted and editted representation of a person.  It’s the person as they want the outside world to see them. A journal is the person behind that shell.  It is the inner-workings of someone’s mind … and there are too many of these delicate, and self-intrusive blogs on the net.

To be honest, I can’t work out exactly what it is which annoys me about them…

Is it narcissism? Is it that the writer thinks that he or she has such important inner musings that the whole world needs to know about her sex life, AND her weight issues, AND her shopping wish-list?  I genuinely don’t think that even if the diary belonged to a famous person, I would want to know about her blackheads, and new fad diet, and how her Mum had pissed her off that morning!

Is it the writing purist in me? Who feels like writing that is made public should be at least to some degree crafted … no matter what the medium. (see The Author, The Journalist & The Blogger and Get it Write 🙂 )

Or is it just that  I view the ‘blogosphere’ as a giant free magazine? And when I read a magazine or a newspaper, it’s normally the Opinions and the Editorials which I most enjoy reading.  This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy reading about people, because these Comment sections of a newspaper are normally, by definition, the most heavily laced in personal opinion and experience.  However, if I were to open a newspaper and read a stream of consciousness about how the editor or commentator was having a bit of a crappy day, didn’t get an writing done, had period pain and a massive craving for chocolate … then I doubt I would read that paper again.

And so … in my opinion at least … journalling DOES have some place in the blogosphere.  But only within the confines which you yourself craft for your own blog.  If you want to write about your crazy NSA sex life, by all means do so … just make that the focus of your blog, and apply as much care to that writing as you would anything else you distribute into the public eye.

And personal opinion and experience also matter … just keep them  to topic, and try to make something interesting out of it, so the reader isn’t simply reading a litany of reasons as to why your day was pretty mediocre!

C-C xx

 

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12 Comments

Filed under Blogging, C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

12 responses to “To Journal … or not to Journal?

  1. I’ve made this mistake many times, making my blogs too personal. There’s two spots online that I actually do regular personal updates, and they never mention anything about blackheads or periods. Maybe chocolate cravings. But that’s because chocolate is so damn addicting.

    Anyway, interesting post. Will keep up with your blog now! I’ve seen this site linked a few times around Twitter, and I can see why. You know your stuff!

  2. Jess Witkins

    I think you made some very true points about writing time spent in one’s life. I too have journaled since I was 13 years old, and I continue to do so. I use mine more so as a gratitude journal now, a way to document the good things in my life and I like it lots. It calms me. Good luck with however you continue your writing journey (journaling or otherwise).

    • I think a ‘gratitude’ journal is a really positive idea. I definitely use mine to calm myself down and to put life into perspective when I just need to see some kind of concrete path. And I definitely miss the sanity of journalling daily, but just don’t have the words anymore!
      C-C xxx

  3. I agree, C-C. Unless the author has the ability to create laugh-out-loud humor out of every random topic that comes along, why would anyone other than his/her mum want to read a blog without some kind of focus? A little more self-censorship would go a long ways on Facebook and Twitter as well.

  4. *sheepish grin* I am guilty! 🙂

    When I first started my blog I thought, okay great, a hub where I can post my articles and talk about writing. But then I found myself posting some pretty personal stuff as well. I’d make a disclaimer saying these were my personal thoughts or just tack on “Blog” next to title as if that was a fit warning. But you know, the weird thing is two of my most popular blog entries ( and ) are based on my own life and what I had been facing at the time.

    I’m with you when you say there isn’t much allure to people’s personal, petty qualms. But I think there’s room enough to get personal if you keep it universal. As much of an oxymoron or paradox as that sounds like… I think it’d doable.

    Or I could be totally off base. Perhaps I just have some very nosey people reading my blog. In which case, I should probably be worried, hahahaha. 🙂

  5. ha ha no link fail, don’t panic!!! think I just had to approve it first xxx

  6. I think any writer is writing about their life as they see it. The great thing about writing fiction, or poetry or anything that isn’t a journal, is that you get to use characters other than yourself to give that message. The egotistical element is removed, allowing the pure message to shine through. And that message may be different depending on who is reading it and how their life relates to what you are saying. So it is about the reader not the writer! Journal-ling or face-booking is as you say narcissistic, unless through the story of your life you are trying to put across something greater than the sum of the parts of your own life, i.e. ‘The Becoming Year’ – a blog by Abigail .

    I don’t write a journal anymore and I think, like you, it is because my need to ‘get these words out’, has found a new, and better outlet. And now that’s quite enough of my ‘egotistical’ words clogging up your comment section! Great post, very thought provoking.

  7. Pingback: The Author Brand | elementarycircle

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