It's funny. When I first started publishing my poems and diary entries to the www, it was because I was obsessed with the diaries of Anais Nin. I wanted to replicate her life. The life she had lived seemed so real and passionate and expansive, and at 17, I assumed the key to imitating this was living as truthfully as possible, and trying to chronicle it every step of the way.
Publishing private things meant that every action, conversation, nuance and experience had to happen in absolute truth, or people would know I was lying. I thought this would also force me to live an amazing life -- who wants to read the diary of a boring shut-in?
Only in the last year, where I've committed myself to re-reading Nin's diaries, have I realized how I went about this all wrong. Nin didn't have the internet. She didn't have a blog. She didn't set out to publish her private thoughts. In creation, her entries were only ever meant to be private, and it is their inception in privacy that makes their tone and depth un-mimicable.
Later in life, she decided to publish her diaries. And why not -- by then, the secrets probably felt faded. The stakes weren't as high. Maybe there were some fears, but I can't imagine they compared to the fear around blogging.
This is the fear that ultimately makes it utterly impossible for blogs to be 100% authentic. You are not coming at writing from a direction of complete candor and privacy, as you would in your little lock and key diary under your bed. You are writing with an audience in mind. A publishing strategy. An understanding that your words will immediately be indexed. Searchable.
That makes you choose words and phrases much more carefully. The euphoric emotions you have for something, well, maybe other people will think they are silly, so you tone them down. You stop yourself from gushing. You take what would have been a wild-mind of thoughts and ideas and recollections in a diary entry, and you turn them into an "easily digestible bit of digital content that can be shared and amplified across the social platforms." And maybe it'll even GO VIRAL.
I thought about all of this again today, when Silvia alerted me to this post on Brain Pickings.
In one passage, Nin describes Vidal:
He is full of pride, conceals his sensitiveness, and oscillates between hardness and softness. He is dual. He is capable of feeling, but I sense a distortion in his vision. He has great assurance in the world, talks easily, is a public figure, shines. He can do clever take-offs, imitate public figures. He walks in easily, he is no dream-laden adolescent. His eyes are hazel; clear, open, mocking.
Nin's descriptions of people in her life -- from the obviously brilliant and famous like Vidal to the perpetually unknown -- always make me want to meet them. Her blunt, stream of consciousness style feels effortless and unedited always. I believe this to be entirely due to these being her "private" thoughts.
Yes, there are many great writers today. Yes, a lot of them have blogs or write articles where the descriptions are wildly raw and beautiful. Yes, an audience raises the stakes and, save for the case of boneheaded plagiarizers, should keep a writer honest.
But, writing. Writing for no reason other than to write. Writing for nothing. Writing because you don't know how to get the emotions out otherwise, and you don't give a fuck how much sense they make....
Well. I'll continue to publish things now. It's the web! Everyone's a publisher! (God help us.) But I know that the things I write down and never show to anyone are the things that someday, someone will find and say, "Ohh! The life she must have had!"