The Art of Inside

It’s been a week that I’ve been blogging more regularly, and so far I’m happy with the result. Even when I wasn’t blogging much over the past few months, I was writing more or less daily in my handwritten journal, but blogging is somehow different. The act of writing in front of a live audience adds an element of intentionality and accountability: I can’t just “say anything” here as I do in my scribbled journal. In my journal, I can (and do) write ad nauseum about basically the same old stuff day after day, but online, I make an attempt to say something interesting or useful. It’s the difference between dressing to go out and lounging all day in sweat pants. My scribbled journal is a comfortable place where I’m concerned only with myself, but my blog is a place where I’m mindful of various “others” (both known and anonymous) who might be watching.

Coca-Cola mural

When I compare the experience of blog-keeping vs. journal-keeping, I also like the intentionality that comes from my practice of either adding photos to blog-posts I’ve already envisioned or actively gearing my words to accompany pre-selected pictures. Regardless of which comes first, the pictures or the images, there’s an added level of thought, consideration, and care: I’m not just scribbling the absolute first thing that comes to mind. It’s as if I’m sifting through words and images to choose only the best to share, and even if the best on a given day are still only mediocre, they are better than the raw, unfiltered Whatever I scribble in my journal. Even on days when the additional craft of figuring out what to write and which pictures to post results in something that doesn’t look very planned or polished, I think the practice is good for me. It’s like playing tennis with rather than without a net, as Robert Frost once said about writing rhymed vs. un-rhymed verse. The care you take to tend to one technical detail makes you consider everything more closely.

Kristin's Bistro and Bakery

I remember how–during my college days when we wrote first drafts by hand and then typed them on typewriters–one of my undergraduate roommates, a philosophy major, used to write her first drafts in calligraphy, insisting that the slowness of the medium helped her consider every word as she drafted her carefully-reasoned arguments. Although I myself am a fan of the sloppy, shitty first draft–as my scribbled journal fully illustrates–I like the way that blogging offers a third alternative between “completely rough” and “completely polished”: a still-rough something that nevertheless is crafted enough to share with the world.

In a word, I think blogging is good for me, so I look forward to doing more of it, seeing it as an intentional practice that helps me and my writing. It’s good, I think, to have a format and forum that force me to check in with myself, as it were, to see how I’m “really” doing from one day to the next. In my teaching, I encourage my students to practice a three-step process of inquiry in their reading and research: first, notice what you see (the art of observation); next, ask questions (the art of inquiry); and third, explore potential answers to the questions you’ve posed (the art of hypothesis). What I do here in my blogging is a combination of all three, tossed with a dollop of contemplative self-reflection: the art of inside.

This is a lightly edited version of part of yesterday’s hand-scribbled journal entry: proof that blogging and journal-keeping aren’t always at opposite sides of the writing spectrum.