How did I come to blogging? While making a Thai tomato soup with fresh coriander last night I found myself thinking about how I came to join the recovery blogging community, a key source of inspiration, friendship and support for me in sobriety. But where did it all start?
This is my letter to the world/that never wrote to me
This goes back to prehistory in Internet terms, a time when personal computers walked the earth like dinosaurs. In 1995 I got my first home computer and began exploring the world wide web with the search engine of Alta Vista. I had no idea what I was looking for and no idea how big the Internet was even then. But that same evening I found my first web diary, aspirant screenwriter Diane Patterson’s The Paperwork, and then online diaries by Justin Hall and Carolyn Burke. This last is often credited as the first web diarist, the first person to take a private diary online in January 1995. In 1998 Bruce Ableson started Open Diary and the idea of keeping a web journal took off in a way that baffled many Internet users who thought home computers were for geeks to play Dragons and Dungeons. Within a few years, there were thousands of diarists or escribitionists online, talking about their daily lives and political beliefs and religious convictions, what they had eaten for supper, the dream from which they had woken, the suspicion that their husbands were cheating on them. It was kiss-and-tell time on the web.
Because I had kept diaries in exercise books since the age of 11, I knew right away that this kind of activity was ideal for me. Over the next decade I started and stopped many web journals of my own. I read online diaries with increasing fascination, read articles about online diaries. When Gus lost his job with a dot-com because of libellous diary comments, I was taken aback. The flaming wars were savage and unexpected. And the web diaries were ephemeral. Diarists would build up a following and then would vanish without warning. Or, like Ophelia Z, would suddenly tell us that she was in fact a Japanese-American male who had been composing spoof entries. Gradually the diaries or web journalers gave way to blogs and the mystery of hyperlinking. Mental health advocates created overnight communities of the marginalized. And I watched the rise of a whole generation of loyal Catholic bloggers in the wake of those early paedophile scandals.
But I didn’t participate myself except erratically. I was drinking and didn’t trust myself to post sober or regularly. I didn’t want to create a fictional lie about my life that would echo the kind of lie I was living at work and amongst superficial acquaintances. I was alcoholic and it was hard enough for me to write about that in pen and ink in a diary intended for my eyes only.
And then it was 2007 and I was sober, active in online sobriety forums and I started a blog for myself. I didn’t want readers, I just wanted an online record of what was happening to me, this miracle of sobriety. Then one morning I found Mary Christine. Then Dave and Scott. To my amazement I had stumbled across a readymade community of recovery bloggers. As I wrote more and more regularly, I worked out my own set of ground rules to do with responsible blogging and showing respect towards others in recovery. I began to leave comments to let other bloggers know I appreciated their presence in my life. I had one or two comments myself from time to time and felt very excited (Steve!). I even ventured to comment on Syd‘s Alanon blog, which felt very daring since I know next to nothing about Alanon. Then I went across and commented on Lou‘s blog, feeling even more daring. And then there was Mickey trashing my comments and cursing me along with BillW. New bloggers joining even as older bloggers left, too many to name but I tried to get to them at least once a week. (Which reminds me that I must update my blog roll before Christmas.) I learned to post images and change the odd font. This was another kind of coming home.
Diane Patterson is still blogging by the way and you can read her entries as far back as June 2006. Way back then she wrote a brilliant essay entitled Why Web Journals Suck. It seems to have disappeared from sight but in the essay she gave one piece of elementary advice I have followed in the last decade. It covers most of the bases.
‘If there is anything at all that you don’t want others to read, then don’t post it on the Internet.’