Today marks the first anniversary of this online ^zhurnal. (See the initial post of 4 April 1999 Zhurnal Zero; it was nearly content-free.) What has the experiment demonstrated so far? Some lessons-learned, guidelines, and tentative advice:
- Anybody can do it. One certainly doesn't have to lead a heroic life, be "literary", or indeed possess any other exclusionary cachet to write a few notes to oneself every so often. (I'm an existence proof.)
- Simple is best. Don't try to do anything arcane or sophisticated in terms of structure; that just puts another barrier in the way. For instance, this ^zhurnal is a trivially-modified "guestbook" which uses a mere handful of HTML tags (put in by hand as I type).
- Flexibility in making entries is wise. Yes, setting aside a fixed time to write, to edit, and to post might be a good disciplinary tactic --- but it might also become a deterrent when daily events preempt the schedule, when illness or travel keeps one away from the keyboard, or when an unexpected software/hardware/network problem knocks the train of thought off the tracks. Better not resolve to add something every day --- lest a single failure become an excuse to drop out entirely.
- Variety adds flavor. Try describing a scene one day, talk technology another, and meditate on mind the next. Don't get into a rut of predictability. Mix short aphorisms with longer perorations. Keep yourself in the background most of the time, or make your appearances brief and humorous. Write about other people, but be conscious of their privacy. Change details as appropriate, or use initials rather than full names.
- Niceness will never be regretted. Keep your language clean; imagine your Sainted Mother is shoulder-surfing. Don't suppress strong emotion, but try to avoid bitterness, anger, and hatred. If you must vent, frame it with disclaimers and qualifiers. Eschew jingoism, sexism, racism, speciesism, etc. In years to come, you'll be proud of yourself.
- Quote shamelessly (but with credit to original sources) from material that seems striking, inspirational, or relevant to the theme at hand. Strive to make your own language quotable.
- Proofread what you've written before posting, and revisit it on occasion afterwards. Few things are more distracting than an unclosed HTML tag, an inadvertent typo, or a mental lapse that introduces an error of fact. Don't be embarrassed to make mistakes, but fix any flaws as you find them.
- Enjoy the journaling process for itself. Odds are that you'll have few readers ... but every so often a pleasant letter from a fan may surprise you. Have fun, and imagine that you're helping people far away in space and time.
As Arnold Bennett observed, what you put in your journal may seem dull to you as you're composing it --- but a year from now it will begin to gleam, a decade in the future it will shine, and a century hence it will be a gift of light and insight to readers unknowable. So write, in deep humility.
Tuesday, April 04, 2000 at 18:36:45 (EDT) = Datetag20000404
TopicBennett - TopicJournalizing - TopicZhurnal
(correlates: HippocraticRepairman, JournalBearing, CleanupHitter, ...)