I think you need to be fundamentally egotistical in some way to keep an on-line journal or blog. And I mean keep it; anyone can start a journal – LiveJournal is littered with transient and abandoned journals – but actually sticking with it for more than a few entries takes commitment, and commitment takes both a confidence that what you have to say is worth saying.
I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I know I’m not the most popular blogger around. I think in my salad days I got about 120 hits a day. Lots of bloggers get that many hits in an hour, or heck, that many comments per day. Most of my traffic is probably people surfing in from search engines.
But that’s okay, because it’s been worth it.
A lot of what’s made it worthwhile has been the people I’ve met or corresponded with along the way, some of whom have become friends or provided some helpful suggestions or conversation. I made several good friends in a similar way back in my days of contributing to APAs, and journalling has been similar.
Here are a few people who have helped enrich my life through contact because of my journal:
- As I’ve mentioned before, C.J. Silverio was my inspiration for starting this journal. We’d encountered each other on-line back in our Usenet days, and we started corresponding more often after I started my journal.
I still remember in the fall of 1997 we each bought the computer game Riven and spent most of our waking, non-working hours playing it, and exchanging e-mails about our progress. At that time Ceej had a webcam in her home office where I would watcher her playing the game (at a rate of one frame every 5 minutes). I had this very oblique view of her screen, and I’d check her progress and try to figure out where she was. “Where is she? Is she ahead of me? Is she behind me? Have I been there already? What’s she doing?” We ended up finishing at almost exactly the same time. It was a lot of fun.
When I moved to California, I became friends with her and her husband David. My first two years here we spent a lot of time going to baseball games together, we went through a phase of playing Starcraft on her home network, and even played some Magic. Ceej also provided me with hosting space on Spies.com and later Leftfield.org when I moved out here, and my primary e-mail is still there.
We don’t see as much of each other these days, but we still keep in touch. I phoned her when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run, for instance.
- Two other friends I’ve spent a lot of time with since moving out here are Lucy Huntzinger and Trish. I discovered Trish’s journal back in the day because she was friends with another journaller I read at the time, and then we met in person when I moved out here. Lucy I had connections to through both the journalling community and science fiction fandom. I’ve been to the Exploratorium and the Aquarium with Trish, and the zoo with Lucy, as well as many parties that Lucy has hosted at her house. I still see Lucy from time to time, and Trish a little less often since she moved out of the area. They both helped a lot in orienting me to the area when I moved out here.
If I recall correctly, I think I introduced Lucy and Trish to each other, and they’ve been close friends ever since. I think they refer to each of themselves as the other’s evil twin.
- I’ve dated two different women I met through my journal. Adrienne was a woman who had just moved to the area and worked near where I lived. She found my journal and wrote to ask me a question, and we ended up corresponding and then dating for a few weeks. I don’t think I was in a good place for a relationship at the time, and made it more stressful than it needed to be, which was a bad thing considering our lives were both pretty stressful at the time anyway. We haven’t kept in touch since then, but I still remember her fondly.
And then, Monique was a journaller who had moved to the Bay Area not long after I did. We met at one of Lucy’s parties, and dated for a few weeks. We had a fun time, but I don’t think we were well-matched for a relationship, plus we lived 50 miles apart which was a difficult obstacle to overcome. We still keep in contact occasionally, and read each others’ journals. These days she mainly writes at Big Fat Deal.
And if you’re wondering, no, Debbi and I didn’t meet through my journal. We met through the mailing list for our 15-year high school reunion (which never happened!).
- I’ve had two correspondents during the life of my journal with people who simply discovered my journal and found that we had a lot in common. The first was a fellow named Earl Edwards, who I mainly remember because he recommended several jazz artists to me back when I was getting into jazz music in 1998. In particular he recommended Joshua Redman, who’s one of my favorite modern saxophonists. I haven’t heard from Earl in several years (and we’ve never met), and I’m not sure what happened to him.
- The other guy in this bucket is my friend J.D. Roth. I actually still have the first e-mail he sent me, from September 1998, which concerned science fiction, weight loss, and my justifications for how I decided to buy certain things. J.D. and I have a lot of overlapping interests, and having now met him twice during trips to Portland, I’m sure we could spend a lot of time nattering away if we lived closer together. J.D.’s been keeping a blog since (at least) 2001, and has ended up being a far more successful blogger than me tanks to his popular site Get Rich Slowly.
- Looking through my archives, I come across the name of several other people I’ve corresponded with over the years: Rebekah Robertson, a lady from the D.C. area who found my journal back in the day and later started one of her own. Dorothy Rothschild, the pseudonym for a woman who kept a journal on Spies.com for several years and whom I met when I was in the midwest. Jan Yarnot, another journaller I corresponded with from time to time. Anita Rowland, who’s been journalling maybe longer than I have, and who’s another science fiction fan. Staffan Kjell, an Apple user in Europe who’s been reading my journal for years.
- Last but not least, there are the old-time journallers who are still plugging away.
Diane Patterson has been journalling longer than I have, having marked her 10-year anniversary last year. She used to keep a list of journals older than 1 year, before the advent of things like Blogger and LiveJournal resulted in blogging being too popular to keep such a list. I still have a copy of the last version archived on my machine, which is handy to see who else is still out there. Diane was one of the most prolific and popular journallers back in the day, and one who seemed especially tuned into the rest of the community. Somehow we’ve never actually met.
And there’s John Scalzi, one of the most popular journallers whom I’d heard of for quite a while, but hadn’t started following until we met at Journalcon 2002 when we were the only two people in the dinner contingent who decided to walk – rather than cab – back to the hotel. He’s a hilariously entertaining smartass who’s also now a published science fiction novelist.
Of course many of my in-person friends and family members read my journal too, but these are all folks that I probably would never have met if I hadn’t been keeping my journal. Ceej and Lucy I might have met through other means, but certainly journalling has had a positive impact on our friendships.
Since journalling is a “pull” activity (a reader has to decide to come to your site and read it, you don’t “push” it out to a group of recipients) you often have no idea who’s reading your journal, and a new reader – a new friend – can appear at any time and without you expecting it. But it’s one really big reason I’m glad I’ve kept up with this as long as I have.