Two new blogs came to my attention in the past week. When I say new, I mean new to me, both seem to have been going for some time. It's odd, I was listening the other day to someone on the radio talking about how the photographs we take nowadays are mostly hidden away on desktops and in cameras, rather than being printed and shared with other people. It occured to me a long time ago that there is more and more stuff being written, but less and less of it is worth keeping.
Writing a blog is a special thing, so different from writing a journal which is for yourself and posterity only, there for your surviving family to read and possible burn. A blog is a living document, one in which it is possible to have a dynamic conversation with the readers, and within which you learn who those readers are, what they like and dislike about your blog and your writing.
The trouble is, the dynamic nature of the blog changes you. It has to. I didn't realise this when I first started my first blog, 10 years ago. I was a pioneer, blogging with a handful of other UK writers, when the BBC site was mostly unobtainable because it was more or less the only commercial site in the country, and on a dial up connection, more often timed out than not.
I was ignorant of the differences between journal writing and blogging, thought it was just an online journal. Ot was some time before I realised that a web log whould have details of your travels across the then much smaller web, with active links.
I wrote it initially like my diary, with names and places more or less unchanged. Soon I realised there was a dilemma between being honest and being able to say what I thought about people and places, and being identifiable. It meant that I wasn't just confiding incidents about my day, but the days of my friends and family. That I might hurt or enrage someone inadvertently...or advertently.
I tried to conceal my identity, but that too is fraught with dangers and deceit. If you are a middle manager living in a large town and enjoy the odd drink in the pub and watching your favourite football team at the weekends, I have no doubt you can probably blog away with a John Doe pseudonym and no one would find you out. But the combination of being a Quaker, being a home educator, working in Second Life and doing genealogy is a pretty unique one.
So... I could turn from a Quaker to a Buddhist, write my children out of the picture and mention no work and no genealogy... but then, would that still be me in there? It would cut out huge swathes of my life, and make the blog so much less interesting.
So... I could simply ensure that I don't say anything to embarrass or upset my nearest and dearest, and blog about safe things. Well yeah, that's more or less what I have done, apart from the occasional rant about commercial companies in SL. But it also cuts out that part of my life where I feel upset, angry, happy, frustrated or just plain bored, where I want to confide in my computer or my reader, and can't, in case I upset someone.
I'd have thought the same problems may beset the two blogs I have found this week. Bitchy Jones is a blog by a dominant woman, and is very definitely full of not-safe-for-work content. I don't agree with a lot of what she rants about, but the ranting is interesting and intelligent and fiery and alive. She's sometimes not very elegant, often badly spelled or typed, but it sparks and flashes, and is full of challenging and thought provoking ideas about dominance and submission and society.
The Grace Undressed blog was BoingBoinged which led the writer to withdraw most of the posts for a day while she checked through them with a fine toothpick to see if she had left identifying information which might lead the crazy posse to her doorstep. She is simply a fantastically brilliant writer, and I will be sad if she doesn't find a way out of stripping (her current job) into writing, which she does elegantly, poetically and with an honesty and authenticity that shines through the bleakest of posts. She is a truly gifted writer, don't let the stripper thing hoodwink you into thinking she has nothing to say... she speaks to me, and obviously to many people, because of the wave of people who followed the link from BoingBoing to her blog. I wish I had written the following, which she wrote about a 12-year-old who ran away from home and ended up in a strip club:
"I don't know what that girl had seen or felt or thought or done before she ran away. I know a lot more about what her life was like after. I can say for sure that the club was dark, and that it smelled of damp carpet and upholstery saturated with 15 years-worth of cigarette smoke and sour bodily excretions, and blizted over with a hundred cheap body sprays scented like would-be flowers and would-be musk. I know that the customers sat against the wall heavy-lidded, impassive, impenetrable. I know the other girls walked past her in a sweep of sheer fabric and high-heels and straight-ahead stares."
Then again, her experiences aren't my experiences. I can't write her life any more than she can write mine. But you can see, her writing is exquisite.