On Writing for Public Consumption

Amber blogged earlier about the differences between writing paper journals and posting online (and a whole load of other things, too, because Amber's personal posts are invariably long, rambling and hilarious). She wrote that, as an established blogger, she's very aware of catering to her readers - she writes posts which she thinks will interest them; she has people complain when she posts things which aren't "blog-worthy"; she has to keep her more private experiences to herself. When she wrote paper journals, on the other hand, she could write whatever she liked because absolutely nobody was ever going to get to read them.

I totally get the first bit. This past year in particular there have been a lot of things I couldn't write about on my blog - there has been a lot of grief and it hasn't all been mine; it wouldn't have been appropriate to spin other people's sadness into my own personal PR.

People have said to me before that they're surprised by just how honest I'm prepared to be on this blog. I will openly roll my eyes at my own moments of idiocy; I will hold up my own unhealthy thoughts for examination; I'm not going to pretend that I'm perfect and have every single bit of this life stuff figured out; I'm not going to pretend I've never struggled.

And I think it's hugely important for people to be upfront about this stuff - acting as though we're always happy and financially solvent and ill health never happens only serves to make other people feel like failures; talking about the tough times lets us all feel normal.

But there are so many things which I don't write about. I don't write about work because, no matter how much I like my job, that seems like a risky thing to do. I don't write about my family or friends unless they have given me express permission to do so because everyone is entitled to set their own level of privacy. I don't write about past relationships or bad dates I've been on because all of the people involved were decent to me and don't deserve to be treated like a joke. I try to use compassion and common sense.

And there is a certain amount of filtering - will you all find this story interesting? would you prefer that I wrote about that? I try not to let that influence me too much but it's there, sometimes, at the back of my mind. I want it to be worth your while, keeping my blog in your feed.

The second bit, though - the bit where Amber said her paper journals were just for her - that I didn't get.

I wrote paper journals right the way through my teens. I bought those thin-ruled, A4, page-a-day diaries from John Menzies and would scrawl my way through an average of four of them a year.

But they were never just for me.

I had this notion that they were going to become important historic documents. I would be one of those notable diarists. I would be the Anne Frank of my day. Future generations would read my angst-ridden, pretentious, self-deluded screeds and think, "Ah! So THAT'S what it was like to be young and intelligent and bored and alternative, living in the sticks of Scotland in the 90s! Thank goodness she wrote it all down! To think there was a time when L7 and The Lemonheads were less well known than The Beatles!"

I thought much the same about my earliest blogs. You know: before all those other bloggers became big hits and got publishing deals and I realised that the market was pretty well saturated.

I don't try to pretend that part of the appeal of blogging isn't the recognition. Of course it is. I love when people like what I write.

But I'm also glad that my early blogs have all been long since archived or deleted.

And I can't even begin to tell you what a relief it was when my mother moved abroad and threw out every single thing I had left in my room - the cryptic poetry, the Sweet Valley High novels and the library of loathsome old diaries included.

I just hope to goodness that she didn't stop to read any of them before they went in the bin. It makes me wince with embarrassment to think about the contents; those diaries are not anything which should ever have been inflicted on the world.

9 comments

  1. Interesting. I kept paper diaries throughout my teens but I was always worried that someone else would read them, so I never really wrote in as much depth as I would like. By someone else, I mean someone like a parent, friend, future boyfriend etc - I guess there's a trust issue there somewhere... That's not to say they weren't deeply personal in places, but there were certain events and topics that I was wary of writing about. And yes, I wince about the contents too. I write 'morning pages' now, as opposed to diaries, and they're mostly just random ramblings. I couldn't care less if anyone reads them - good luck to them, if they can make out my scrawlings.


    I guess I do write personal stuff on my blog but its hard to know how far to go sometimes. Like, I really want to write a post about recent events, just because its been such a big part of my life, but I feel as if I'd be twisting events to make it about me, when really it was about Adam. But I dunno, I'll think about it some more. Some things feel appropriate to share and some things clearly don't, but I'm in two minds about this. I don't feel I'm an 'established' blogger so I tend to feel I'm writing for myself more than my readers, so I suppose in that case I should write whatever the hell I like? Ah, the trials of blogging.

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  2. I am properly lol-ing at the, "To think there was a time when L7 and The Lemonheads were less well known than The Beatles!" line! That was totally me when I was a teenager - I have a vivid memory of driving with my dad along the M62, listening to Dookie by Green Day on cassette tape and trying to convince him that it was as good as The Beatles

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  3. Yes, write whatever the hell you like! I do write a lot more about Steve than I would about anyone else (I'm quite blase about it, like he knew what he was getting into when he moved in with me kind of thing...), but if I'm not sure how he'll feel about something I get him to read it over first. There are ways of writing about Adam without being too specific - and you've never said enough about him that he could be easily identified. And, although it was *him* who had the operation, it was *you* dealing with all the arrangements and the stress of watching him go through it; a huge chunk of that experience was absolutely yours. I don't know... I don't have the answer for you but I suspect, in your place, I'd mull it over for weeks on end but ultimately end up writing about it.

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  4. I'd rather listen to Dookie than I Am The Walrus.

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  5. I never get people who keep their old journals. Somewhat recently I ripped one up and felt SO MUCH BETTER afterward...it was incredibly cringeworthy. I totally wrote like it was going to be read too.

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  6. I don't either - surely they don't go back and read them?! That said, I *have* gone back and read some early blog posts...

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  7. As a new blogger, I feel like I need to read this a hundred times. I know I will make all of these mistakes, but I will try to keep going. My teen journals were also full of many deep thoughts I felt the world would someday want to know, only to a few years ago find in a box at my Mom's, have a nose through and immediately want to burn them for the cringe factor (well I shredded them in the end). I did keep my first ever childhood diary though, the kind with the lock and key, as it contained none of the clutter of the teenage (or adult) mind, like "Today I ate cheese toast at school, kissed a boy (eew!) but I <£ him) and played with (my dog) Fluffy. It was a good day", etc. Those cause me no pain, only nostalgia.

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  8. Aw, I wish I'd had some like that! My childhood diaries never made it past 13th January.

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