Friday, June 18, 2004

I post therefore I am

After that round table event I thought a lot about what weblogging is good for. This is kind of for Roman who is doing research on the subject... and I promised him ages ago that I would write something up for him.

I thought it would be a pretty straightforward answer, but it isn't. But there is a reason why I love Douglas Coupland. He is the only author I know of whom I can say, he has written for me and of me. He is the voice that I can never quite find. He knows me so well it is almost scary.

"I've begun writing this journal late at night to try and see the patterns in my life. From this I hope to establish what my problem is - and then, hopefully solve it."
Dan in Coupland's "Microserfs")

I have to renarrate my life. In Generation X, Claire said: "It's not healthy to live life as a succession of isolated little cool moments", and I find myself agreeing with her. Her friend Andy said something similar: "My life had become a series of scary incidents that simply weren't stringing together to make for an interesting story."
What does that mean, "interesting"? Perhaps sense. Wholeness. Living one's live in a fragmented way is the quickest way to insanity and disconnection. Without any sense, there is only despair, a vast paralysing pointless hollowness. And I truly believe it is not that I just create a story out of my life... it is more that I excavate it, or that I try to read the tapestry of my life in order to see where I am going, to find a sense of wholeness. Without that I wouldn't have one reason to get out of bed. Living split is safe, because one can live on the intellectual track and celebrate the Prozac-induced happiness without ever having to face the demons, but they come and haunt you anyway whenever you let down your guard. And living split will turn you into a cardboard character eventually... you can run on that track for a long time, but never forever, and my time has come to knit myself back together, and I hate doing it but I can't avoid it.

I need to remind myself of where I have been along the way. That's why I write. To keep myself from forgetting what I have learnt. I write to string my past and future together.
Is it pretentious to use all those quotes? I use them because they give me absolution. They validate me. Somewhere else on this planet, someone else has had the same thoughts as me, and when two people share the same experience, then surely, this can be no illusion. This is truth. Or at least it makes it more true for me. It legitimises what I feel. It tells me that maybe I am not insane.

When we had the round table discussion about digital storytelling, one person there spoke of blogging as a narcissistic act. Heck, you could look at it like that, of course. In the end it is a matter of perspective.
But then again, how can you tell whether this is narcissistic or introspective? For me, writing is a lot like picking a mental scab. Like a mental tongue that keeps feeling for the splintered tooth. I can't help it. I admit freely I tend to overanalyse myself... there are a lot of things I am trying to cope with, and without a little introspection and the consequent self-knowledge they would rule over me. I need to find out what's going on with me. Writing helps me understand myself, and see myself change. I think self-knowledge is crucial in trying to cope. Writing is healing. Lawrence Durrell wrote about his friend Henry Miller using writing as therapy.
Through writing, Durrell said, Miller "cuts open the abscesses... The pus and blood gushes out... But if any wound remains, it is clean, and can heal" and not continue to fester.... "The work which was begun as a refuge and escape from the terrors of reality leads the author back into life, not adapted to the reality... but superior to it."

And I guess, perhaps it can help people who care enough to understand me. It is much easier to talk indirectly, via a diary, than tell people face to face. I can leave my thoughts here, raw as they are. I don't have to look into anyone's face and censor or modify myself according to the relationship we have. I am better at writing than telling. I guess my counsellor would possibly make much more sense of me if she read stuff instead of talking to me.

I thought about this. Which one is the morally higher form of communication? Is it the face to face one, subject to self-censorship and self-control and social adjustment? I guess it helps you to build social skills, but isn't it also a bit dishonest? Not just to the other person but also to yourself? Do you forget who you really are, what is really going on inside you, without a little introspection?
What I write here is my mind uncensored. There is no one I am speaking to directly, I am facing, I have to save face for. And yet my mind will be communicated to those who read this. Maybe.
Maybe this is closest to "me". I like honesty. Honesty can be brutal sometimes, but also liberating.

This is my voice. I have spend most of my childhood, my teenage years and my twens with the sense that my opinion doesn't count. That other people's views and standards are more valid than mine. That I can scream and shout and no one listens. Some of it I felt for good reason, some of it is plain paranoia grown out of low self-esteem. So this is my therapy. Some of these things I need to gather courage for to speak about, but I feel I have to... and it's exactly those things I need to talk about to clarify, to not lose my mind, or I'll betray myself.

Ray Bradbury put his finger right on it: ´
"...What would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate, and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."

I have been nice and quiet for too long, and I recently realised how much of my true thoughts I have held back for the sake of being nice. Don't get me wrong, kindness is a good thing. But it stops being good if it breaks you.
It got clear to me when I talked to Jackson. I realised having my own view of things in secret is not enough... if I don't speak it out loud it is like telling myself they don't count. I have to make myself heard, at the risk of being unpleasant.

It's difficult to tell what blogging is about. Sometimes it speaks directly to people. Sometimes it is like speaking to yourself. But I guess most of the time it is a strange hybrid of the two... maybe even a whole new genre (whatcha think, Bronwen?)
People put themselves out there and they write like no one else is around, but they are aware that some people read this, and that some of the stuff is some unspoken knowledge they will have of you. I guess it is less embarrassing to be confiding this way. I don't know. People that blog about private matters probably know what I mean.

But then again, I don't want to be the serious bitch all the time. There is a definite fun factor in it. My writing lecturer Bob Giddings said something that motivated me again to write. He told us to notice the weirdness of life, to keep our eyes open to the strange things that humans do and say and experience. And what can I say, this is exactly what I love doing all the time. If you are a writer at heart, writing becomes as essential to you as eating, sleeping and breathing. I just fight with the frustration all the time that I never quite manage to express exactly what I mean. Writing is my preferred form of communication. I'm a shit talker. The only way I can get a coherent sentence out of me is on paper.

After reading this, you will probably object very strongly.

But there you have it. Blogging is therapeutic. It's liberating. It's self-validating. It's soul-venom-draining. It's terrifying. And it's hella fun.