Saturday, March 10, 2007

Diary vs. Blog

I’ve been exercising some rusty intellectual muscles lately and attempting to analyze blogging as a genre: what does this format enable us to do? What are its strengths and limitations? In particular, what is its relationship to private diary-keeping?

When Bub was a newborn, I was a zealous diarist, furiously writing my way through the impenetrable mysteries of his behaviour. Why is he waking for the day at 5:30 each morning? What is the impact of an earlier bedtime/later naptime/swaddle/darkening curtain/daylight saving’s time? I jotted down his milestones, attempted to find words to capture the exact shade of his cobalt eyes, and wrote notes to my future self, ready to be used when the Pie was born: remember to try this, remember not to do that.

Blogging has invited me to write differently about motherhood, to delve into its representation in the media, to acknowledge its emotional complexity. The knowledge that you readers are out there permits me to be just a bit more literary in the way I write about my children and about the experience of parenting them – I can experiment with different forms, ranging from magazine interview, to quiz, to research-paper abstract. The blog format allows me to view each post as its own well-wrought urn, that little bit of ivory on which I can work with an often clumsy brush.

When GingaJoy alluded in this post to the visual rhetoric of blog banners, I took a second look at my own: I love my banner (thanks Kristen and John!) – I love the old bricks that would not look out of place in Diagon Alley or at Thornfield Hall, and I love the brightness of the white arching window that says something to me about my incorrigible optimism. Above all, though, I think I was drawn to that particular banner for the same reason that I chose this rather heavy Victorian template several months ago (on the same day I nervously made up a password and decided that "Bub and Pie" would be an alphabetically advantageous name for my blog). Each post is separate, linkable, framed by the arch at the top and the dark brown scrollwork at the side. Framed thus, each post renews the invitation to experiment, to write, to create something new.

For centuries, women writers have worked in genres that allow for brevity: we have written short stories, lyric poems, works that could be squeezed in between the demands of visitors and babies. Brevity is not always my strong suit, as a writer. I struggle with endings, often closing my lectures with a sudden pause followed by an abrupt, "And that’s all I have to say, so I guess you can go home." Blogging forces me to finish, to close – and then it invites me to open again tomorrow, to begin again with something new.

22 comments:

Mouse said...

I have actually been pondering the difference between the blogging I do now and the journaling I poured myself into during university. I haven't quite gotten there yet, but it's been fun to see other bloggers musing in similar veins.

slouching mom said...

I agree with your take on the importance of closing in blogging. Closing is tough for me, and I have had to work hardest on this aspect of my writing. If I look at my archives, I believe that my closings have gotten better (in that I actually have closings now). I like the short format of a post, because it forces me to get to the essence of a topic, not to waste words (which I am very good at, in general), and mostly, to pack a punch, if I can. I love the idea that the visuals of a site can interact so well with the form of posts, and I think your site visuals really do complement your writing. My site visuals totally suck.

Mad Hatter said...

Argh, I am trying to keep my head down on all this blog theorizing until I get my blog theorizing posts that I promised the other day written. It's not that I don't want to be influenced by others; its just that I would like to spit my thoughts out first and then join the fray. But time. I need time to write them and I know I am missing out on great conversations.

Argh.

metro mama said...

Having an audience makes all the difference I think.

I'm working on a post on this too.

Veronica Mitchell said...

Blogging is a much greater relief to me than journaling - my journals tend to be manic-depressive, naval-gazing monologues barely intelligible to me, let alone anyone else.

The real comparison for me is between blogging and letter-writing, something I did avidly before the kids were born but gave up when they could not allow me to put pen to paper without climbing into my lap and trying to eat it. I miss the lovely paper and ik of letters, and someday will go back to it, but for now blogging is a decent substitute.

Kyla said...

I was never an avid diarist. I wanted to be...I have dozens of diaries and journals I had begun at various times, but I always let it slide. I don't do that with blogging because of the interaction. I feel more of a responsibility to keep it up, because of the bonds I've formed through it. I feel like it expands who I am, as well.

flutter said...

What a perfectly lovely way of putting it.

Em said...

My diary was self obsessed navel gazing (as veronica puts it). With my blog I think about my readers - which is good and bad. Bad because I censor myself. Good because I put more effort into what I write.

Beck said...

I think I've mentioned my cringe-inducingly horrifying teenaged diaries, where I was mostly concerned that I would be a virgin for the rest of my life. Literally, it was pretty much all I wrote about. I burned them, lest my children ever read them and get a realistic idea of quite how goofy Mama really was.
Keeping a blog though causes me to write differently and not so much about whether or not I'm ever going to get lucky.

Redneck Mommy said...

I was a big fan of journal keeping before my children came along. When my first child was born and even my second, I still plotted my thoughts down, just not as often as before.

By the time the third arrived, I just didn't have the steam for it, and I was seriously displeased with what I wrote. Would anyone really care about the minutiae of my day in thirty years from now?

Blogging forced more creative thought from my brain, forced me to actually think of my sentences and not just free flow. I had to have a beginning and an end, not just the middle.

Having a kickass template and cool feedback helps too!

bubandpie said...

It occurs to me now that the need for an ending also imposes a (possibly false?) optimism on the blogging genre: even in our darkest posts about fear and rage, we need to find a way to end the post, and almost the only option is some kind of concession to the "but it's worth it" sentiment: a photo of our babies, an anecdote focusing on their redeeming sweetness... To end without something of this nature would seem too dark, too dark altogether.

andrea from the fishbowl said...

I've never been able to keep a diary. I can't think of how many times I started and gave it up. Yet the blogging keeps going. I never have problems coming up with stuff to write about, and it's been like that for almost 8 years now. My kids make good blog fodder, but they aren't my main focus anymore. They used to be, but as they've grown older I've branched out.

Whenever anyone asks me what I blog about I can never think of a pithy summary, and I'm always reminded of that old Seinfeld episode in which George and Jerry are writing a show togther. Their show, as defined by George, is about nothing.

I tempted to say that's what my blog is about too, but at the same time it's about everything as well. Hmmm.

Terri B. said...

I guess the mention of needing to end the entry is key for the differences in my writing. When I blog I try to end the entry and usually try to end with an acknowledgement that I have many blessings. When I journal privately there (often) are no endings and the tendency is to continually navel gaze and see only myself and my needs and thereby creating a very dark atmosphere (as Bub and Pie put it so well). I also think that by leaving my "journaling" open to commentary, as is usually the case with blogging, it gives me much needed perspective through the comments left by others.

Sandra said...

So interesting and so well said. I hadn't looked at it through the perspective of women writers and a history of forms with brevity. But that is one of the things I need about blogging. And the need to finish as said.

I am thinking through this one too. Not sure if I'll post anything ... others have said it so much better ... but I am enjoying reading all the perspectives.

slouching mom said...

and almost the only option is some kind of concession to the "but it's worth it" sentiment

Really? I tend to end dark posts as darkly as I began them. But maybe that just reflects my dark nature. ;)

Lawyer Mama said...

Having an audience definitely motivates me to make it a little more entertaining. "Self-obsessed naval gazing" would definitely be a good way to describe my previous journaling efforts. I'm horrified when I read back through them now.

Having an audience and feedback also motivates me to keep going to an extent. At times, journaling felt like a chore I didn't have time for. I still don't have time for blogging at times, but I do it to keep up the conversation. It's like staying in touch with old, out of town friends to help you get through the overwhelming periods of your life.

I think you also make a good point about how we end posts. I try to be myself as much as I can, but I do tend to be a bit more optimistic in my posts than I otherwise would be. Perhaps because I know family and friends will read it too. But the thing is, putting a positive spin on a post towards the end usually helps me be more optimistic in real life.

nomotherearth said...

You've actually brought up something that I'm of two minds about - I love blogging because I amd forced to have some perspective on things instead of simple wallowing, but I'm afraid that the need to find an ending to a post is giving my writing an air of "afterschool special" where all problems are neatly wrapped up in hour-long segments, including commercials.

jen said...

the audience allows for community..the back and forth and subtle nuances that i might not have meant to convey, but others pick up on. it forces me to think a bit harder...more so than a journal ever has.

i liked your explanation for your banner/look. it absolutely fits.

Lady M said...

I'm Slouching Mom - closing was really difficult for me in previous writing, and having to come up with some kind of ending (good or not) has definitely improved my ability to do it. As for false optimism, I'm probably guilty of that for entire posts, not just the ending.

Jenifer G. said...

Interesting...just got back from a weekend away.

I think the ending is the hardest part. Sometimes, I am able to get it all out and still have no idea what the end is...then I tend to lighten up as it were.

Like other commenters I have never been a consistent journal keeper, but I am a much better blogger. My journals tended to be me going over and over the same worries and neuroses until I somehow sorted them out. Blogging on the other hand forces me to think things through.

Like I said before, interesting.

gingajoy said...

Closing is always SO tough for me--in everything I write, how to conclude?? I agonize at times (even with the last two--especially with the last two) And most posts I write take me much longer than they should--I am a slow writer.

I think this is one reason why my blog does not resemble a journal more--because even two/three posts a week takes me *forever* so I end up being quite selective about what I do write. I think of a journal as less selective. And also I think for me blogging is a creative outlet where I write to think. A while back I thought of my blog as a venue for creative non-fiction. I liked the idea of being an essayist a la Sarah Vowell. I still like that idea.

Hmm. I feel like I need to go back and look at my blog and ask myself "what kind of blogger are you?"

I love your design, btw. And I like thinking of you as "Bub" even though I know it's not you it refers to.

bubandpie said...

Joy - The thing is, "Bub" "B&P" and "BubandPie" (with or without the capital 'p') feel like my name to me now - I feel the same involuntary start of recognition when I see it as I do when I hear my name pronounced. It's a bit awkward, not having a name that really refers to me - there's always the confusion as to whether to put "Ms." in front, etc. - but I couldn't come up with a moniker that felt right (being already exhausted from the stress of choosing a blog name), and now it's too late: Bubandpie is who I am. (And I don't think that means that I am overidentified with my children - if anything, it means that I have usurpsed their identity!)