Personal Blogging

I followed a link in a comment from Jill's post on writing and solitude to an interesting discussion at Planned Obsolesence on the division between the personal and academic in weblogs. There are obviously no generic “rules” about how much of one's personal life one should write about in this type of forum. Sometimes I've felt the urge to write about various personal crises in this blog, but generally I've resisted that urge — not necessarily because friends, family, or colleagues might read it, but because I don't particularly trust my own instincts as a writer when I'm under a lot of emotional stress. Going through a rough breakup, for instance, I'll spend hours writing bad poetry. Even at the time I'm writing it, I'll recognize it as drivel, and file it away in a special folder created for that purpose (cathartic nonsense no one should ever read). And while, just like anyone else, I find confessional writing compelling, I generally don't write about my lovers or former lovers (too much potential to hurt myself or others in the process). I suppose I've always thought that I'll allow myself to write fiction about the people with whom I've been intimate years after the fact, but I rarely do. Even then, I find that I need to give those characters some kind of distinguishing personality trait or characteristic distinct from the person that I actually knew. About 8 months back, when I was going through some personal turmoil, the last thing I considered doing was writing about it in my blog. At the same time, I admire bloggers who do live more of their personal lives in their blogs. Justin Hall, arguably the original blogger, for instance, has shared his life with his readership for a long time. I admire Jill for striking a balance between sharing a compelling amount of her personal life with her readers while keeping the overall tone of her blog professional and research-oriented. Several of my students, such as Kate Werner, keep livejournals, which are generally more personal and confessional than blogs. The mixes between the personal and professional, trivial and serious — the unclear generic boundaries of blogging — make the form very compelling to me. It's fascinating to me that the same basic format can be used for fundraising in a political campaign, academic research, recounting the sins of former lovers, ranting, etc.

I'm glad that so many people are so generous in revealing so much of themselves in cyberspace — for instance, as a young faculty member, it's been great to read about the lives of other young faculty members in other institutions, going through the same types of things I'm going through.

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