Rohit's Realm

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January 02, 2011

The Death of the Public Journal

It has been half a decade since I last posted New Year's resolutions, and by and large, my track record with accomplishing the resolutions I have mentally set for myself since then has been just as dismal as my performance in writing for this most forlorn of sites in the past few years. As I was thinking of what I wanted to accomplish this year, however, I could not help but recognize how useful the practice of writing down resolutions was, and for two independent reasons. The first (and most obvious) is that writing down the resolutions provides a means of referring back, and measuring success (or, in my case, failure) on a year-to-date and year-on-year basis. The second, however, is what I find to be more interesting: being able to look back years after the fact and see what I was thinking at a very different time in my life. The latter gets to a point I made some years ago: I only wish that I could have had the foresight to have begun writing earlier . . . ; it is an immensely powerful feeling to read what you have written so many years before, feeding not only wistful nostalgia, but an undeniable sense of accomplishment and maturity.

Having established that writing down things is necessarily a good thing doesn't, however, say much about the medium in which it is written. And in many ways, the conundrum I face today is that I am looking to find personal significance through blog posts I had composed at other times in my life, knowing full well the manner in which those posts were composed. Put otherwise, what I am looking for is a journal, and what I have is a blog. There is a distinction between the two, and for this particular enterprise, that distinction makes all the difference in the world.

For those old enough to remember the heady Internet days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, blog and online journal may be synonymous. But the two have long since evolved, and the latter, I would argue, is not long for this world, if it continues to persist at all. In today's brave new world of Facebook and Twitter, the notion of sitting down to vomit one's feelings in (no doubt grammatically questionable, ill-composed) paragraphs almost seems quaint. Why write meandering, nauseatingly poor prose about foolish heartbreak when 140 characters of broken sentences will accomplish the same far more quickly?

As a (very1) long time critic of this sort of bullshit online emotional catharsis, I cannot say I have regretted the demise of this singularly awful enterprise. But therein also lies the problem: what I really want when I am analyzing my past is access to a journal of my writings, a place where I am engaged in emotional catharsis (and knowing me, most likely of a bullshit nature, but certainly not about foolish heartbreak).

Unfortunately, that's not the (venerable) Realm And, indeed, it never has been. Though sometimes I might wander into the philosophical or introspective in my posts, it is never without an eye to the public nature of this undertaking. Often times my anecdotes are distorted in time or place to enhance the story or otherwise remove some element that I deem not necessary or wise to publish publicly. And invariably where the truth ends and the distortion begins is never revealed. I write—and have always written—for an audience on this site, and with a voice that as years have passed and this site has evolved has become increasingly distinct from what might be considered my normal voice. In short, this site represents a caricature of me, by me, and one that has been in the making for almost a decade.

Which is all fine and good—who doesn't love a little bit of emotionally unavailable corporate douchebaggery from time to time?—but it's also not particularly useful for the purposes that I listed above.

And that brings me back to my New Year's resolutions for the coming year. I will list only one of them here: I am going to start a journal. A real one. It won't be handwritten as I have no patience for long time spent with pen and paper any longer, but it will be the closest digital equivalent I can muster. It's probably been over twenty years since I last kept a journal of any sort, so I imagine starting one now will prove difficult. But as time passes, and I get older, I have grown increasingly convinced that writing down thoughts and experiences as they occur is critical, not only for personal development, but also just to remember. Memories fade, and people come and go; already I hardly remember the early parts of my college experience. How long before law school fades into a similar oblivion?

I'd be interested to know if any of you keeps any sort of regular log, and your experiences with it. Drop me a line if so. And I promise I will lose the ingenuousness going forward; this sort of sincerity coming from me is rather disturbing.

^ 1 Indeed, though a proper history of this site has not yet been authored (though it surely will be in a fit of extraordinarily misguided pomposity and pretension), I would venture anecdotally that the original raison d'être of this (necessarily futile) site was to serve as a foil for the ludicrous online journals that filled the proverbial internets back in the early years of the new millennium. How the mighty have fallen.


I applaud your endeavor, and although I have stopped writing in my diary (since elementary school), dream diary (since college and realizing exactly how many hours of therapy it could lead to if that diary fell in hands of a psychiatrist), and blog (since starting work, albeit not intentionally), I still stand by the words of famous diarist that headline my blog:

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." -Anais Nin

There is a great sense of satisfaction in having a record of your immediate emotions or reactions, but I disagree with your idea that writing in a personal journal is any less writing for an audience than a blog. You may not know who the audience is or when they will read it, but after re-reading my third-grade diary, it becomes obvious that we still direct our thoughts at someone, often someone we imagine as patient, honest and critical of our thoughts/actions.

That's a pretty good quote. I guess I don't have enough experience with writing in a journal to know whether I am writing for an audience. I would like to think I am not (or maybe that the audience is just me), but maybe even here I am. Time will tell, I suppose.

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