The journal has become much more to me than a convenience, though. It's funny, because I do edit it a fair bit. I don't talk explicitly about my love life, for example...partly because I'm not entirely comfortable being quite that open to the world, but more because I respect the privacy of those involved. Similarly with my friends...there have been times when I've been having very upsetting problems with friends of mine, been really angry or troubled. There aren't any details of that in the journal...it just doesn't seem right.
Mostly the journal is fairly light. It gives me a place to record my daily routine, scribble down recipes I think people might like, jot down bits of poetry that do or don't make it over to the actual poetry section, talk about new projects in my life, ask for help. The journal readers have been a great resource on everything from computer problems to ornithological questions to gardening advice.
They've also held me up when I was down. I don't usually spill my guts in these pages, but there are a few bad days, here and there, and the readers (whose constituency fluctuates quite a bit over time) have been unfailingly kind, generous, and helpful. It's been tremendous knowing...hearing in my worst moment that someone out there cares -- a total stranger cares, in fact. Probably several. It reminds me how nice people are, and *that* reminds me why I do what I do...because people are amazing, and well worth it.
There's the net in action for you -- not the flashy commercial part that as of now, June 1998, the corporations haven't quite figured out how to handle. No, it's the best aspect of the net, in my opinion -- the free flow of information, of assistance, of genuine affection and care between people who were previously strangers and whose real world lives may have been so different that they would never have crossed paths. I've received letters from teenagers and septagenarians, singles and married and multiply-partnered, of many ethnicities and sexual orientations. I've received letters from people I never would have expected to talk to (soldiers stationed abroad in the Middle East and Bosnia, for example), and been touched by their stories.
The free communication of the net has the potential to remind us all of how human we all are, and how similar, underneath all the differences. The idealistic side of me sometimes thinks that if we ever do achieve world peace, it'll be at least partly because of the net. Maybe that's silly, but I can hope, right?
There is a more personal motivation as well, of course -- a desire to be known and understood and speak my truth and have others listening, responding, touched. That's the same sort of impulse that drives me as a writer -- drives most writers (most open journals, most personal home pages), I think. Dorothy Allison said it best of anyone I've come across (and it was a journal reader who first recommended her to me...):
"I wanted the thing all writers want -- for the world to break open in response to my story. I wanted to be understood finally for who I believe myself to be, for the difficulty and grief of using my own pain to be justified. I wanted my story to be unique and yet part of something greater than myself. I wanted to be seen for who I am and still appreciated -- not denied, not simplified, not lied about or refused or minimized....I have wanted everything as a writer and woman, but most of all a world changed utterly by my revelations." ("Believing in Literature", _Skin_)
*smile* It all sounds very lofty like this, and if you dip into the journal, you'll probably see a lot more things like 'went grocery shopping' or 'didn't write again today' than passionate, break-the-world-open stuff. But sometimes you need to write a fair bit of dreck to get to the good stuff, and hopefully the journal will be at least mildly entertaining in the meantime. So far, I've enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.
- Mary Anne
June 27, 1998