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Writing for self/writing for others

I've been reading back entries (going to read January/February, and then read March next month...) and came across the inevitible theme of writing for the self vs. writing for others on LJ.

In that entry, I declared that I write for myself. Yes, I still think I mostly do, but that is distinct from writing only self-centered content, with no thought for how it will go across to a wider audience than just me, myself, and I. I write because it makes me happy. I write self-centered content. I also know that I write for my friends. I want to be seen as interesting, and I want practice in a public forum where I can get back feedback from people who I already know, and occasionally attract the interest of strangers I consider worth my while to check out. I will deliberately phrase things certain ways just because I'm writing in front of an audience.

If not for Livejournal, I would still certainly be writing. When I was working my hellish phone job, I produced up to fifteen handwritten pages a day, between phone calls, when the supervisors weren't looking. I wrote on looseleaf paper, because we were allowed to doodle, but not write or draw, and doodling was a thing for looseleaf paper, not a notebook. I've been writing in a journal since age 10, when the Gulf War started in 1991, and it has been primarily for me, but I have always written with the expectation that someone else will read my journal, even if it is after I die.

I use this journal for three primary purposes, and not all of them can be accomplished in more private forums. I communicate with my friends. I get my writing into the public eye. I record my life so that I may go back and re-read it. All of these functions are done because I want to do them, naturally.

The friends list is one of the best features of LJ. I can stick a party announcement up on LJ, and my friends who read LJ on a daily or weekly basis will see it, and scheduling will happen. Likewise, it's a place to point people to when they need information that I want to put in a central location with nicely interactive talking features. I update LJ so that my friends will know what is going on with me; I read LJ for entertainment and so that I will know what is going on with my friends. I am less excited about meeting new people than I have been in the past, because while I always like getting to know different interesting people, there is a limit to the amount of quality attention I can give out, and I don't feel as if spreading myself too thin is fair to anyone. So the standards for automatically getting my attention have been raised from 'good, interesting person' to 'truly awesome'. But I knowingly, and happily, use LJ's whizbang communications features, and sometimes exploit the Nexus-effects of the service. It's very easy to get social time on LJ; it fills one of my basic needs.

I write on LJ for exposure. I know that I'm a decent writer, and I know I want to get better, not worse, as time progresses. One of the tools I use to help myself is writing in a public or semi-public forum, and seeing what generates interest, what should have been interesting that attracts none. I know that the size of my friends list is not an appropriate measure of how much attention my writing is actually getting, because not all people read their friends list regularly (or are even active on the service anymore), I am high-volume enough to warrant filtering, skipping, or skimming, and there are surely lurkers/regular visitors who rarely, if ever, feel moved to comment. I write fanfic, philosophy, observations on life, and there's only so far I can get on that by myself. I want my writing to be known and loved. Livejournal is a good forum for me putting my writing out to be read by people; if I'm lucky, it will be linked and passed around and commented on. I may even be given tips on how to improve what I'm saying, for clarity, content, impact, phrasing. I aspire to be as well-known as Heinlein, McCaffrey, Duane. I want to exploit the Internet grassroots effect to already be well-known by the time I break into paper, and to hone my skills so that I'm good enough to break into paper.

I write for myself. This overlaps, a lot, with writing for friends. Sometimes I write things for myself, and expand things so that friends, those who care, already know the participants, but don't know the details, will know what transpired. I record my dreams, because I will want to look back on them. I keep notes on what Little Fayoumis has been doing. I put my shopping list up. I check off what household tasks I have accomplished. I write down who I talked with on the phone for how long: the weekly or twice-weekly notations of time with little to no explanation. I am more apt to leave things public because I don't care who sees it than I am to take something private because I don't think anyone will care. I don't, honestly, think anyone but my actual friends will care that I got to talk to a guy about pointless drivel (he reads Dungeons and Dragons message boards aloud to me over the phone, for crying out loud!) for a certain amount of time, and I don't expect them to. If I were concerned about my journal looking spiffy for readers who are not actual friends, I would take all of the low-content personal bits friends-only or even private. Since that's not my priority, I leave it in the most convenient form for me to read it -- public, and often uncut. Google can't read private posts, and I use Google to search my own journal. I don't like clicking cut tags to see what the content is, so I don't use many of them, often.

I don't want to go through my journal and label each entry into "For my friends", "For the public" and "For me". I don't want to, and if I do things in this journal for the convenience of readers that is an inconvenience to me -- the brain boggles at how very much that runs counter to my philosophy that this journal is for me first, my friends next, and only incidentally for outsiders. vidicon is very content-centered, and writes well for outsiders, as well as continuing readers. shadesong is very friend-oriented, because she's happiest around people. metaphorge has what he finds interesting, and it's often interesting to me, too. Since I'm somewhat social, but not hugely so, using LJ as a tool for friends communication is "for me", because it makes me happy, but that's not the only thing this journal is about. Similarly, making my entire journal a place where the general public feels welcome to hang about at all points and do as they wish? Not something that would make me happy, and thus not "for me", and thus not doing it. But, posting long speeches that are of general interest and getting discussion on them is something that makes me happy, so I count that as "for me". And, clearly, posting my shopping list and links where I can access them from school as well as home is "for me", because I'm the only one who's really going to be interested in milk, TP, eggs, lettuce, and ice cream (bunny tracks).

My journal is "for me" because it contains the right balance of self-centered, friends-centered, and public-centered content to make me happy, labeled, cut, and filtered in ways that satisfy me. The statement that my journal is not primarily "for me" because it has content aimed at friends and the general public is ridiculous, because interacting with friends and writing for the public is something that I do for myself, because I like to. I am not a true introvert. I am not even close to being completely extroverted. I'm just me.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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