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Friday, 6 May 2011

blogging: a poor substitute for journalling

In some of my reading recently, both for book research and personal interest, I'm being drawn into thinking about the 'inner life' - how we reflect upon and build character, how we self-examine without naval-gazing, how we pay attention to our spiritual health, for want of a better word.

This where people start talking about spiritual disciplines.  This is very relevant for the final part of my book (mustn't give too many spoilers!) but I can't research a topic like this purely objectively.  Inevitably I start thinking about it myself - in relation to my own life.

Some find the discipline of journalling very helpful.  It's fairly popular in a secular context too - quests for self-improvement and expression often hold it up as a possibility.  Of course, spiritual journalling in the more traditional Christian sense tends to have a rather different aim in mind - examining ourselves in relation to scripture and our journey with God, an act of discipleship, if you will - even confession.

I have journalled over the years - not going at it as a 'discipline' in any kind of conscious way but simply because it has felt helpful.  Now that I blog, I 'journal' less often.  In some respects, this is okay.  Some things overlap, and certainly the interaction can be very encouraging.

But of course there are things we do not say in a blog.  Things we might, in a moment of agony or joy, record in a journal.  Questions we might dare to ask ourselves, in front of our maker but nobody else.  So in this way I think blogging is a poor substitute for journalling.

It's a poor substitute because it's not the same thing.  Journalling is a very private, deeply honest pursuit.  Blogging may or may not be honest, but it's not private and its purpose will always be influenced by the need to please.  Whether we admit it or not, we are writing for an audience and in this way we are in danger of writing to impress - crafting ourselves a character that is not entirely ours.  To whatever degree, we are writing for the public sphere; we are choosing to put ourselves 'out there'.

Not everyone finds journalling helpful ; I realise that.  But I want to try and reimplement this self-examination, this honesty of words.  Something I can look at and say - "I was there, and now I am here."  "I need to work on this."  "I was ashamed of myself today."

Blogging and journalling are not the same thing.  If we think that they are, we miss out - always seeing ourselves as merely a persona - instead of the person we really are.  (Some might baulk at this.  I'm not saying I'm not myself when I blog.  But I am in danger of skirting over the deeper parts of myself, always aware of what appears on the screen.)

In blogging I see my public face.  But there is more to me than that.


Nancy Wallace said...

I have kept an 'occasional journal' for many years. I only use it occasionally, such as at a time of crisis, grief or special joy. It's a mixture of my own reflections/questions and quotes from others. It is private, but becomes a resource for the public 'persona' as I look back and see what how I grew (or didn't) or learnt (or didnt') from an experience. Blogging is very different - it is the public face. I think I try to make my public face true to myself, but it only shows a part. Completely disinhibited blogging would not be healthy (or kind to others).

Perpetua said...

You make a very important distinction here, Lucy and we religious bloggers blur it at our peril, I think. I'm a very intermittent journaller, but I write there things I would show to no-one else, let alone publish to the world. I blog because it helps me to reflect on life as I have experienced it and what is important to me and also to share my enjoyment of things and places and books. It isn't a record of my inner life and could never be so.

Angela said...

Like Perpetua I am an 'intermittent' journaller - but as you say blogging and journalling are very different activities

btw - sorry I missed seeing you for a 'live' chat in Blackpool!


Lucy Mills said...

It seems we are in agreement!

Angela - no, I wasn't in Blackpool. Roll on Nottingham in October!!

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster