Rather astoundingly, today is the 6th birthday for this blog. Here is the entire first post:
snapshot of life at the moment
OK, here goes. Tried installing MovableType yesterday ... I'm not good enough.
My chair has broken rollers. As I type this, the stereo is playing "Prisoner of Love" by Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra featuring Lena Horne. Robin is in the livingroom reading the Sunday paper and steaming to help her sinuses. Jillian's coming over tonight for dinner and DVD.
That post was written on Blogger, the original home of this blog until I got tired of the downtime (I'm sure it's better now, but it's a pain in the ass to move your blog, so TypePad has me for the foreseeable future).
Many things have changed in the blogging world. For one thing, comments weren't allowed on this blog back in the day. For another, YouTube hadn't been invented.
Robin still reads the Sunday papers, and sometimes she still steams her sinuses. Jillian still comes over for dinner and DVD, although Doug usually comes, too. Truth be told, a snapshot of life at the moment wouldn't be a whole lot different than it was in 2002.
As for why I do this, or better, why I continue to do this, well, who the hell knows? My sister wrote about this on her blog recently, as it reached its third anniversary, and in her post, she quoted from an essay I wrote back in 1996. I don't know that I've come up with anything new in the ensuing 12 years, to be honest, but I did do an update in 2002, "Still Nobody, or, How My Home Page Became a Blog":
[T]he very act of posting my writing to a public space admits the existence of an audience, no matter how small. This wouldn't be worth noting if all I was doing was creating Lists o' Links. But I'm writing a diary. Therein lies the rub. For diaries, at least as I imagine them, are private affairs. When you write "Dear Diary," you are speaking to a schizophrenic audience of one, a combination of the abstract "Diary" and yourself (in theory the only person who will ever read what you write). Nothing is more fear-inducing than the idea that someone else will read your diary; it records the thinking you want to keep to yourself.
So, why post it to a blog, where someone, anyone, can read it?
I think I know the answer to that question, but first, I want to consider the difference between what I might write in a private diary and what I would post in a public blog. I know people are out there when I write for my blog, and so, before my words ever hit the web, I've self-censored all the "good stuff." I'm not about to say what I really think if someone else is listening. I might write "Dear Diary, I love Robin, do you think she likes me, too?," but the blog version would be a semi-fictionalized construct around which I hint at some person named Robin without ever truly declaring myself. A blog is less confessional than a diary; I don't mind telling my diary/myself who I am, but I'm wary of exposing that true self to the Public. So my blog is, I would argue, not just censored for public consumption, but ultimately better for that censorship. Knowing that you are reading over my shoulder, I get creative with my life. The unfiltered self-indulgence of a diary gives way to the more considered, craftlike blog. Certainly, the constraints of craft result in a certain loss of immediacy in my writing compared to a diary. But I am also forced to acknowledge the existence of others, and that's a good thing, a crucial step on the road from solipsism to community. A good thing, that is, unless you yearn for the glory days when James Taylor could top the charts navel-gazing his way through fire and rain.
The subject matter of the diary blog is also affected by the audience lurking in the background. The most straightforward and "honest" writing on my blog is probably the movie reviews. I can express myself in those write-ups without wearing my heart on my sleeve. My heart is still there, it's just offered at a distance, through the conduit of whatever movie I'm talking about. I can say "what I really think" in ways I won't if I have some deep personal secret to share with the world at large. In those latter cases, my writing becomes cryptic, and basically uninteresting to anyone except myself. Ironically, I expose myself most when I write about something outside myself, and I hide myself most when I purport to write about Me.
Happy Birthday, Online Life!