I never wrote in a journal, never kept a diary, not seriously anyway, until 1998. Blogging was still several years away but 1998 was the year of The Ice Storm, the year my mother had a stroke, and the year I turned thirty-five, which I sometimes refer to as the year I was finally old enough to be President but was smart enough to know it would never happen. Those of you who were in Maine at the time know which storm I mean. And, in time, we recovered from the storm as my mother recovered from her stroke. But I didn’t completely recover from journal writing – almost, but not completely.
For about ten years I wrote pretty faithfully, often several times a week. My writing became part of an evening ritual, especially on Sunday nights. I would sit at my desk listening to St. Paul Sunday, Pipedreams, and With Heart and Voice on Maine Public Radio. I enjoyed the act of writing, putting ink on paper. At the time I was much more into fountain pens and writing was as much an aesthetic exercise as anything. And I’ve got both larger bound books, small Moleskine notebooks, spiral bound and other notebooks, some full and others mostly empty because I got them when I didn’t have any of my other journals or notebooks with me to write in.
My main journal writing largely has centered around whatever is going at the time – at work, at home, in my ‘spiritual’ life. I have never been able to figure out who the audience for my journals is, though, whether it was just me musing or whether it was for anyone else. In fact, some number of pages in my journals are devoted to answering the question, “Just who am I writing this for anyway?” Do I expect anyone to read them? Is writing in them some futile attempt at immortality? These are the questions I ask myself and still can’t answer. And actually having looked back, so much of it is meaningless navel-gazing I wonder why I spent the money on books and ink. From time to time I may have hit on something meaningful but a lot is just that – books full of paper and ink and not much else.
Blogging didn’t come into the picture until several years later at the suggestion of my friend Brian. Brian is or has been both a journal writer and blogger for years and he encouraged me to give it a try. Before jumping even into the deep end I splashed around with a few others in a couple of community blogs/discussion forums he put together (The BKO Lounge, The Big Red House). While those no longer exist, I still count a handful of friends from those times – a couple of whom I have even met in person. And I took my fledgling blog from MSN Spaces (now Windows Live Spaces) to WordPress.
Even in my own journals I censor myself. In my blog posts, even more. Partly this has to do with what I do for a living (as an appointed public official), and partly because there are things I think are still nobody else’s business. That my self-censorship extends even to my handwritten personal journals tells me… well, honestly, I’m not sure what it tells me, except that there are things so private I won’t give them a voice anywhere.
I haven’t written regularly in my journals for a few years. When I do, I find myself noting how long it’s been since I’ve written. Often so much time has passed that trying to catch up is pointless and since I’m still not clear who I’m writing for, I end up floundering. When it comes to this blog, I know there is – however small it might be – an audience who will read at least some of what I write. But I still don’t know who most of my audience is, and I’m not sure it matters.
For the first couple weeks of this year I was on a tear. Every day seemed to bring new things to write about. There were some ideas that didn’t last long enough to make it even to a skeleton post I could flesh out later. And those almost always come as I’m listening to the news in the morning, so if I don’t write them down I forget once I get to work and it might as well never have happened. Guess I’ll have to start carrying that little book around with me all the time.