There is nothing like exposure to public ridicule to galvanise the attention.
- - - Robert Fripp
Starting in high school, I kept a written journal for many years. It now pains me to go back and read any of the several volumes of spiral bound notebooks I created then. Those volumes now strike me as badly written and irredeemably foolish and dull. I look and look for some evidence that there was a bright mind behind the mess, and find little if any. Ouch.
I stopped keeping a written journal about when I first got a home computer late in 1986. I wanted to keep my journal electronically, but I didn't know how to do it reliably, so that the entries would never be lost, and available to all future generations. Floppy disks failed all the time, and hard drives - if you had one - were known to crash. Armed with these flimsy excuses, I stopped keeping a regular journal, but I managed to feel guilty about it from time to time.
More recently, through the usual painful , clumsy means, I've acquired a great deal more self knowledge. I know my memory isn't as reliable as I thought it was, and I know my best ideas are often lost, and my worst ideas see the light of day before I've had a chance to examine and discard them. I don't even have my life story straight much of the time. Too much of life just gets away and is lost forever. I speculated that keeping a journal could be one part of the workaround to my natural mental indiscipline and laziness.
One of the best benefits of keeping a journal - in whatever medium - is the exercise of going back over the day and trying to remember the important or interesting bits, if any. If nothing important happened, then I need to note that: life's too dull, and what can we do about it?
But why a web journal? Do I want random strangers reading this stuff? Yes, I do. It's not just that I don't care, but I need to have this in mind: anyone in the world could read this. My old journals were just the opposite. It was my intention that no one would read them until after I was dead, if then (now I think I can safely say that no one ever will read them, if for no other reason than no one has that much spare time to waste). This is part of the improved self discipline that I aspire to. It works for me.
Second, a web journal allows one to richly hyperlink journal entries. Our generation never learned to think in terms of hypertext, but I expect that one day everything we write will be hyperlinked in some way. The links allow you to maintain a high level flow, without stopping to explain. I'm still a raw beginner at this, but keeping this journal is one way to get better.
Of course, certain topics will be largely off limits for a web journal, or will be treated euphemistically. There will be little or nothing having to directly to do with bodily fluids, bank balances or dangly bits, and I don't regard this as overly limiting for my purposes. There are also times, that for reasons of my own, I am not too specific about what I mean. That is actually an amusing exercise for me - how to convey the sense of it without revealing the details.
I also won't apologize for the mundane, shallow nature of many of the entries. That's real life here. Some say that God is in the details.
Should you keep a web journal? Of course not. "Should" has nothing to do with it. Do you think you would enjoy it? Would it work for you? If so, go for it, and feel free to send me an e-mail. If not, don't feel bad. You can still buy spiral notebooks.
Updated: 24 April 2005