The Diary vs. the Blog

26 Jun

The diaries I kept from 1972-1974, thankfully, have been destroyed. By me. What drivel. Correction: what pretentious drivel.

In those days I fancied myself a political activist and set down in my journals the thin gruel of my political thinking. Screeds on Nixon and Watergate. Ravings about the military-industrial complex and the Vietnam War. Clueless babble about racism. Not that any of it was wrong. But it was lame, lazy, and lamentable prose.

Years later, when scanning old diaries in search of a date or place or person from my past, I re-read some entries from those years and shuddered at the idea that someone other than me could potentially peruse them. Wisdom prevailed over ego and I ripped them apart. At the time, despite never having read them, my wife said I’d regret the rash act. Not yet. One of the smartest moves I’ve ever made.

Since those callow years as a diarist, I’ve improved as a writer and have become a bit less enamored with my political insights, using my personal journals now to jot down events in my life and those who I care about the most. As such, my diaries are more useful for fact-checking my memory and less of an embarrassment.

On occasion, while glimpsing old entries, I will find a rant or a foolhardy notation that I regret. If it’s terrible, I will rip the page from the journal. But at least I no longer encounter entire years that deserve destruction.

Keeping a diary, especially doing so for decades, probably reveals a profound defect in my psyche. At least I know I am not alone. Many obscure people like me keep a personal journal to contain their thoughts and experiences. Even kids keep them.

Some bloggers treat their posts like a diary entry. There are even blog templates to appeal to such writers. But most bloggers do not write in diary form. I certainly don’t. There’s a huge difference in writing for an online audience, no matter how small, and writing for your eyes alone. A diary entry is less rigorous, more spontaneous than a blog post. It only seeks to entertain or edify its author. Perhaps the writer believes posterity is looking over his or her shoulder, but it is not very likely. Whereas a blog entry can, by happenstance, get read and commented on by others. Arguably, that is the blogger’s goal: get noticed and get a discussion going.

Not the diarist. The last thing I want is to wake up in the morning and see an ongoing debate scrawled by others in my private journal about my previous day’s observations. I am my own harsh diary critic. I don’t need others to tell me when I suck at it.

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