Friday, July 22, 2005

Judithheartsong's Artsy Essay Contest for July


Why Do I Keep A Journal? No Shit. What Was I Thinking?

The reason I started this journal is not the reason I continue this journal.

On the face of it, there wasn't a reason for me to have one. I have no life. I'm not a working mommy anymore. I'm just working. My children are grown. They seem disinclined to provide me with the grandchildren I deserve. And they live to-hell-and-back far away. I don't have an illness that consumes my life. I don't have a career that provides fascinating anecdotes on a daily basis. I don't have a husband to write about. Or a boyfriend to whine about. My animals are dead and buried. Except one whose ashes are in a little brass container on a shelf in the hallway. And I'm in a demographic that has all the sex appeal of an unsightly growth.  

The only thing I have in abundance is attitude. So with good typing skills and a load of 'tude, I leapt into the deep end of the pool and began to swim.      

In the beginning my journal was like a new toy. The blurb on the main screen made it sound like it was going to be something that was fun to do. My inner smartass needed a place to play and AOL had built a a Disneyland for blogs.

So I signed up. Journals were easy to create. You could pick different color combinations for different templates. There was a choice of type sizes and fonts. And the best part was you didn't have to know any code.

For someone who had only kept a locked diary for six months during eighth grade, filled with more bowling scores than actual events, the appeal of an online journal might seem hard to fathom. But I was now almost fifty years older and writing stuff had become my profession.

With a journal I could write whatever I wanted without restrictions. Except TOS. No marketing plans to follow. No creative strategies to adher to. For someone who is used to writing to a client's specs, the journal was freedom -- nobody dictating anything.

Writing in an AOL journal also appealed to the show off in me. Other people might come read it, besides my loyal family and friends. The thought of people I didn't know stopping by and leaving comments was exhilarating, like being on stage. I always loved performing.

But along the way, my interest in journaling became an interest in other journals and the people who write them.

This place would be nothing without our bloggermeister, John Scalzi. More than anything else, he is the difference between a bunch of disparate blogs and a real community. He is the glue that helps us stick together.

When Scalzi began his Weekend Assignments shortly after I started my journal, I could leave a link in his comments section for others to follow. And vice versa.

Ironically, one of the first people who left a comment in one of my entries was Nikki from The Single Woman's Guide to the Universe. The Single Woman and Mrs. Linklater were both self-appointed tour leaders on a tram ride around the cosmos. Surely, with such similarly named journals, we must be kindred spirits. Thus the friendships began, slowly, with links from journal to journal.

Soon every day in J-Land began to seem like Thursday night at the only bar in town. New people were showing up all the time. Like familiar faces walking in the door, I began to see familiar names commenting in my journal. And they got to be familiar with who I was, too. 

Albert of Albert's World of Artsy Fun showed up and soon became a magnet for other newbies like me, all hugs and kisses whenever he saw us. He was outrageous and hilarious, sometimes shocking, and we gravitated to him like he was the ringmaster of a virtual circus. He was covered in sequins, the Big Top's most over the top master of ceremonies.  He loved his audience and always sent a personal email after a comment that he found entertaining.  

While Albert embraced you with his effusive warmth, Patrick's Place became a comfortable hangout on the weekends doing the Saturday Six. Then there was Remo, whose power on the page terrified me.

I am sure it must have been one of The Screamer's ribald or sarcastic comments in Albert's Journal that caught my eye. So I followed the trail of breadcrumbs to his place and read everything he'd written back to the dark ages, along with the verbal devastation that rained down on anyone who dared to question him. Or so it seemed.

Weeks passed before I emailed him to say I liked his journal but I was afraid to say anything. He told me the coast was clear so I began to make a timid comment or two from time to time. And last week I got to pimp his writing as a Guest Editor. We've come full circle.

There are dozens of stories like Albert, Patrick, and Remo. Even as we speak, I'm writing this for Juditheartsong's Artsy Essay contest. Did I mention Yak of Do I Amuse You?  Andi who never sleeps? Armand, Sam, Mo, PK, Robin, Paul, etc., etc.

See? I could be here forever.

It was clear from the start that J-Land embraced diversity. This was an equal opportunity place. There was one common denominator that united us. We all had journals. The rest -- race, religion, sexual orientation,age, political affiliation, career choice, whatever -- became interesting sidebars.

The first anniversary celebration last July solidified the community. Spearheaded by Viviansullinwank, whose enthusiasm went through this place like a mountain wildfire, the celebration was a one woman parade. The rest of us were just happy to ride on the floats. That remarkable event was something that could only happen in J-Land. The rest of the internet is way too cynical.

Vivian had everybody signed up to do something. I volunteered to make a poster. We didn't get every journaler's picture, but we got a lot. And I was introduced to hundreds of other writers in J-Land just because I offered to help out.

The sense of community continues to this day. There's a new guy in town and everybody stops by to check them out. Unlike blogs in the larger sphere, when someone's journal goes on hiatus at AOL, everyone in the neighborhood knows it. Come back, Jeff, we miss you.

So, I no longer write a journal for my original reason -- to have an outlet for the opinionated, slightly insane ideas of a mature woman.

I'm still insane, but now I write my opinions to have a way to entertain a wider audience of people I consider wonderful acquaintances and very special friends.

Which reminds me, when are we going to get this convention off the ground anyway?


gaboatman said...

Come on, Mrs L!  The deadline is midnight tonight.  You can do it!

suzypwr said...

Remo is pretty scary.

cw2smom said...

What a great entry!  I am rootin' for ya Mrs L!  I just love your attitude and damn, I hate to think of anyone in the demographic you described.  Especially since I can't be far behind you!  LOL!  Lisa

artloner said...

This is why I love you. That gigantic heart that you think nobody knows you have.
You are one of the reasons I stick around. All the way around. I wanna be just like you when I grow up.  LMAO...are you still coming to my 40th Birthday Bash in October??  

*Seriously, I do consider you a "real friend", and hope I fill that spot with you as well.

terrific essay.


hillareeday said...

This is wonderful! You summed up j-land beautifully.

libragem007 said...

Hi Mrs. L
well you made me laugh in this entry. You're downright honest. I've visited and read your journal a few times...btw congrats for being the guest editor last week.
Gem ;-)

viviansullinwank said...

{{{{{ Mrs. L. }}}}}

I was delighted when I saw your link in Judi's journal and flew over here to read your entry. I was even more delighted when I saw that you'd included the pic of the awesome poster you put together for the community for the anniversary last year. I have one of the copies you sent me right here in my computer armoire and look at it often.

THIS ENTRY IS OUTSTANDING!!!  I love your 'tude'     I need to tell you that more often! You rock {{{{{Mrs. L}}}}} and I'm very glad you're guiding us through the universe  :)


gaboatman said...

Well, Mrs. L  you made the dealine and I'm so glad you did.  Wonderful entry.  I love to hear about the beginnings of J-Land and how all you wonderful people started this community and held it together.  The poster you created for last year's celebration is awesome, just like the lady who put it together.

xzasporated1 said...

And so, ahem...what were the bowling scores?  C'mon, fess up.

This is brilliant.

~~ jennifer

mosie1944 said...

You always make me laugh.  Sometimes, you even make me think (a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it).  If I want to find interesting new journals to read, I look here, because you seem to know the most interesting bloggers.  

jevanslink said...

What were the bowling scores?  In eight grade I was a state champion bowler. Mrs. L

lamove04 said...

You are a sweetheart, Mrs. L., thanks for making me a part of this special essay, and J-land is a much classier joint with you in it!  

And I'm sure Remo will be tickled by the fact that you only discovered him through his loving comments in my journal-- he should know that without me he's nothing!  :-) Albert

deveil said...

great essay Mrs. L.  I love your journal.


purcellneil said...

No Shit.  What was I thinking?

I enjoyed that -- occasionally have to ask the same question.

Loved this essay.  New to your journal, and will be back.  


happinessdreams said...

Great essay.

judithheartsong said...

perfect essay and oh so true. Your are a delight. Your sense of humor, your wit and wisdom, your intelligence, all keep us coming back. Wonderful essay my friend. judi

debbted said...

Mrs, L~Your TUDE and style is link no other. Thanks for the great read! ;-) Sassy