22 October 2007

blogs and getting over oneself

Doris Lessing, a lady who at age 87 lives by herself in London, and just recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature, is hugely inspiring person. Despite the fact that her fiction is based predominantly on her personal experiences, her stories have appealed to millions of readers. Lessing suggests that that the best stories--or perhaps the most relatable ones--tend to come from writers who share a piece of themselves with their audiences.

At the beginning of her book The Golden Notebook, she explains her realization that "the unease of writing about petty personal problems was to recognize that nothing is personal in that sense that it is uniquely one's own. Writing about oneself is writing about others."

Recently, I was interviewed by the Montreal Gazette about blogs and privacy. The reporter was asking me about the act of sharing one's personal life online, and the various ways in which one can choose to do so. She asked me what the intent of my blog was, and at the time of the interview I had trouble thinking of a good answer.

After thinking about it for a while, and after coming across Lessing's quote, I have realized that I do think there is value in sharing with strangers. The idea of sharing with strangers goes against everything we are taught as children. Our interactions(and our words and images) should be limited to people we know, we are told. But sometimes it is nice to share our thoughts in the hope that someone out "there" might relate to something we have written. I sometimes think that the less the reader knows the writer, the more they may be able to relate to the story, the thought, the image--the post.

Through the buffer zone of the blogosphere, traces of the writer's specific life can be cleared away, and the reader can approach the post with a degree of neutrality. Maybe he or she, the reader, will encounter a phrase that makes something click in his or her own life, a realization that might not have been sparked by someone immediately familiar.

I do believe that our stories are less ours than we would like to think. I suspect that there are lots of women who write like I do, take pictures like mine, and who are even gunning for the same careers as I will be. As I meet more people in life and come across new strangers online, I have fewer illusions about my own self-importance. Ironically, as self-involved as the personal blog inherently seems, maintaining one is often a step into a much larger community.

No comments: