Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Freedom Of The Backspace Key

Actually I write quite a lot, in different bits and pieces and different formats.

To start with I have a blog, I'm not sure if you know about it. It's an ongoing little bit of me that I update whenever I feel in the mood. I have no real aspirations for my blog, no goals for it to become the biggest thing since instant string hoppers, no dreams of getting so many readers that I can retire from "normal" work and live off the six figure income that I get from ads. The only stipulation that I have ever, well stipulated, for my blog is that I keep it positive.

Then I have a journal that is on my PC, a boring and long word document that I update whenever the mood has taken me. For many months the mood hasn't taken me. The thing sits there dormant on my hard drive like an ancient ceasefire agreement, fading into historic obscurity.

I also have a paper journal. I write in this when the mood takes me, this happens quite often. It's a total unedited and unabridged outpouring of my mind. I used to call it a diary but it's become more than "just" a diary. To me a diary is either one of those things in which you write your forthcoming appointments or it's a factual record of what you did yesterday. Samuel Pepys would probably disagree with me. My diary became a journal when I noticed that I was writing just anything in it without a real format or plan. It ceased to be record of events and thoughts and became just that bit more flowery.

Some days ago I thought about the act of writing, of the physical sensations one feels when actually doing it. It dawned on me that writing on paper with a pen makes a chap, well me at least, feel very different to typing onto a screen via a keyboard. In my case I have two quite contrasting outlets. London, Lanka and drums is usually written with the reader largely in my mind.

As I write a post I often wonder if you'll find it interesting or funny or intelligent. I go back over paragraphs and sentences and change things to try and improve them. The backspace key is almost worn out and the delete key is just about to be deleted because of high usage. Most of the content and the editing happens because of my own standards and judgement. Usually I figure that if I like something or laugh then others will.

But when I write in my journal, things are very different. It's for me, no one else. I pour stuff out, sometimes miserable bits, sometimes dark things, often things that I'd never want to tell anyone. As I do it I get mesmerised by the feel and the look of the pen and paper. I get into a flow and really feel the words flowing out of my cheap Bic ballpoint pen. I'm not a pen snob but I find it a struggle to write with anything other than a transparent medium Bic pen with black ink.

Writing on paper is so much more permanent too. I can cross out, even tear out. I can draw a line through something or so many lines over it that it's illegible, but it's always there isn't it. Pressing backspace or delete on the keyboard obliterates words and sentences and in time it's as if they were never there in the first place. By the time I finish this post and hit the publish button I'll have more or less forgotten which bits I edited and which were my original thoughts and words.

Sometimes I start to write things on either format; paper or monitor, and my mind gallops off at a tangent, forgetting where I had intended to go in the first place. But the galloping is more free form on a computer than it is on paper. The freedom of the backspace key.

Before I started my blog I would always write a letter on paper before typing it up. I felt that I couldn't think into a computer, that I had to do that into a piece of paper, then copy to the screen. Times change and I'm comfortable with whacking something straight into an email, word document or whatever these days.

As time marches on with the inevitability it carries on its back I realise that I juggle my two formats with the ease of a multi tasking man. I keep up the journal, revealing my innermost thoughts and feelings to no one in particular and revelling in the act of writing with a cheap pen on a part of a tree. I also type happily into this blog and float bits of myself out into the blogosphere when the mood takes me.

They're so different in so many ways yet they're both writing.

How about you? Do you write and do you have different approaches or mindsets?


Indyana said...

Such an interesting post!I really can relate to the writing on paper bit! Somehow it clears ones thoughts and feelings,and writing flows much more easily!Blogging,from the keyboard, in contrast,seems harder, in this regard!I also find commenting hard for that matter!

I have about 12 diaries from the past,which my kids have read as well! I loved the fact that they were interested,and perhaps I had posterity at the back of my mind while writing it,but,it also left me panicking and tearing out many pages, that had been left uncensored!

I still have a diary but fill it in less often!I have promised myself to only put in positive stuff, and have been doing so! I feel that does make an impact on oneself, and somehow helps one feel better!

I apologize about the awfully long comment, but this just such an interesting post !

Eppie said...

Writing is cathartic but keeping a diary is bad for one's health.
Cathartic outpouring to offload trauma, diarists continually churn over their misfortunes and so never get over them. They get caught in a ruminative, repetitive cycle.

Blogs serve as oral history. When it comes to sharing blogs and reading other people’s blogs, we like to connect with people, learn about their lives, and find common ground. Bloggers blog as a form of self-therapy.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indyana - Thanks for the comment, no apologies are needed. I often wonder whether it's us "more mature" types who are comfortable with handwriting things as we spent our schooldays doing it that way.

Eppie - You sound knowledgable about this but I disagree with your opinion about diarists.

"Cathartic outpouring to offload trauma, diarists continually churn over their misfortunes and so never get over them. They get caught in a ruminative, repetitive cycle"

I think that this is something that definitely could happen to a diarist but, as Java would say "'t ain't necessarily so"

I'm sure, if a diarist reads his/her diary continually, then they would get caught in that cycle, but for many, like me, it's a means of getting a lot of stuff out of my head and it's massively cleansing.

My overall point is that keeping a diary is not necessarily bad or good per se, it surely has a different effect and impact on different people.

Thanks as always for reading and the comment.

T said...

great post RD.

i used to keep a diary of sorts, not a journal but a diary with all the secrets of a young girl (aaaww) and soon learnt that its not wise to do so in my family. i've had love letters and pages of my diaries photocopied and distributed among relatives. not fun.

writing in (on?) my blog is fun for me and I like to directly start typing, but when i'm writing a paper i always ALWAYS have to jot down an outline on paper, just to get the feel of the material. i find that weird!

Angel said...

Mmmm... I think I blog the same way I think and write... it's the same "voice" that's on screen, on e-mail, on old fashioned written letters (I still do those) and in my own diary. The only difference is that my spelling and grammar seem to have improved!

Sabby said...

Oh wait, hold the phone...instant string hoppers??! What kind of a rock have I been hiding under all this time??! *mumbles*

Wonder how much your private journal's worth?! *Gives her (failed) evil laughter another go*

(Between, fascinating blog. Love the way you write)