Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Artsy Essay Contest

I had to miss the opportunity last month to enter Judith Heartsong’s Artsy Essay Contest. I could not let this month’s contest pass me by. The challenge this month is to write an essay on the topic "Why I Keep A Journal."

Here now are my thoughts on why I keep a journal:

I was a silent reader for several months before joining this community as a participant. I now have an opportunity to reflect on what brought me here in the first place and, now that I am here, why I stay.

If you were to look at my profile, you would discover I have been an AOL member since 2002. That is not entirely accurate. I joined AOL in 1998. I signed on and instantly liked the service and the opportunity to meet new people. I found chat rooms that I would visit and I noodled around the Internet playing games here and surfing there.

By nature I am a social creature and had no problem meeting people and striking up electronic friendships. I also found out the down side to this form of communication. People were not always who they said they were. No matter what chat room you were in, people were searching for cyber sex or boyfriends or long term relationships. I couldn’t go online without someone Instant Messaging me almost, well, instantly. It was almost impossible to do any research or get any real work done online.

I changed jobs and was without a computer in 2000, so I terminated my account with AOL. Two years later, I had a computer and signed up again with AOL. This time I changed my screen name and went about using the service in a much different way than before. I stayed out of chat rooms and discouraged Instant Messaging. After some time, I became bored and wanted to communicate with other people again, but not via chat rooms. I didn’t want to have a pen pal, and I got tired of aimlessly roaming around Hometown looking at pictures of people I did not and would not know. I tried the message boards for a bit but that did nothing for me.

One day, I went to the Journals Homepage. I had heard about blogging. I wondered, "What is that all about?" I wondered if I would feel like a Peeping Tom reading other people’s journals. I mean, journals were just electronic diaries, right? I took the plunge. I clicked on a journal.

My forays into Journal Land were short at first. Not finding anything I really wanted to read, I almost gave up. Then, I found a photo journal by this lady named Jersey Girl, http://journals.aol.com/cneinhorn/WonderGirl/. These were stunning images, but at that time she did not post very often. I had no idea what an alert was, so, everyday I would go to her journal and see the same pictures.

One morning, I looked around the page and saw the "Other Journals" section. I clicked on one of these and was instantly taken to another journal. Not a photo journal, but an interesting one none the same. Was that okay? I wondered. Is this like spying or stalking I thought? I slowly went down her entire Other Journals list and added almost every journal to my Favorite Places sidebar.

I started reading these journals regularly and trying out the Other Journals listed in each of these journals. Oh my gosh! I had discovered a community out there. These people knew of each other and commented to each as though they were friends.

I established a list of favorites of my own that I visited every day for months. I never commented. I was too scared I might not be welcomed. I kept reading and came to know these people. I learned of their lives, their likes and dislikes, stories about their pasts and their future aspirations. But, they did not know me and I dared not leave a comment.

This all changed one morning when I read Judith Heartsong. Judi made a reference to "lurkers." LURKERS? I don’t know about you, but that made me sound a little seedy, I thought. I sent Judi an Email and included a scan of a newspaper article on bloggers and the Internet and estimations of the masses of silent readers that read these blogs.

What I got back was a pleasant surprise. Judi sent me an email explaining how the term lurkers came to be, but acknowledging that it might not sound so good. She switched to the term "silent readers" in her entry. I was floored. Then Judi started encouraging me to "come out to play." In other words, start writing, start commenting, start something, for goodness sake, LOL!

At the same time this was happening, I got brave enough to send an email to another one of my very favorites, BlondepennieRae's "A Pennies Worthhttp://journals.aol.com/blondepennierae/APenniesWorth. Pennie has a talent for weaving stories like no other that I have read. Pennie should write a book, but that’s an argument for another post. Pennie sent me a very nice answer to my email and, like Judi, encouraged me to start my own journal.

I still felt I didn’t have the drive to do regular posts in a daily journal. I had never kept a dairy in my life. Pennie showed me that my journal could be anything I wanted it to be and I could post as often or as little as I wanted to. I was still insecure so I asked her if she and John would accept a sample of something I wrote to evaluate. She agreed and I wrote her a short story about some friends and I exploring the countryside during summer break when I was in grade school. (Yes, I still have a copy of it, no, it’s never made it into my journal).

She wrote back and said she loved it and that I should go ahead and start a journal. I think she would have said that no matter what I had sent to her, LOL, but I believed her because I wanted to believe.

I realized then that I really wanted to be a part of this community. I liked the people I met and I wanted them to know me and like me, too. I also wanted some venue to put down stories about my careers and recreations that my grandson, Trenton could read as he got older. You know, leave a little something of me to enjoy after I’m gone sort of thing.

Well, I started "Docklines…" My Journal. You’ll have to laugh with me over this, but it took an entire day to sit here and learn how to put it together the way I wanted it. Nothing seemed easy. Posting pictures seemed impossible, but, thanks to Pam of "Just One Girl's Head noise" and John Scalzi of "By The Way" I was able to print out instructions on how to do pictures, add graphics, insert links, etc. It still took time, but I could do it! My first entry debuted with no fewer than 55 hits on the hit counter. That translates to me going to and from my journal 55 times that first day while I tried to learn how to put in the graphics and pictures. But, I did it!

Next came the transformation. In me! Now that I had my own journal, I felt like I had a ticket for the ride. I started commenting. Boy, did I start commenting. I wondered later why I was ever shy of commenting in the first place. I met people I had only read about. People commented in my journal, too.

About that same time, another change came over me. I now wanted to share so much with my new friends. I started carrying my camera around everywhere. I started taking it to work. I started shooting pictures of things I would never have thought about before. A whole new door opened up. No wonder so many people enjoy doing photo journals. It’s fun to shoot PICS and have someone to share them with. Much better than stuffing them in an album that only gets opened twice a year.

Then my schedule changed. I could not post as often as I wanted to due to commitments and time constraints. I must admit I felt a little pressure. Remember earlier that Pennie taught me that I could to whatever I wanted with my journal? I lost that for a little while, but my J-land friends were quick to let me know I was going through a learning process that most of them went through themselves. I finally realized that it IS MY journal.

I can post or not post. I can add pictures or just type. I can go long times between posts or post two or three times a day. I realized I am now part of that community I longed to belong to. My friends will be here tomorrow if I have to sleep in today. If I go on a trip they will pray for my safe return and welcome me home when I get back. If I am feeling ill my friends will try and cheer me up and pray for a cure. If I am lonely I will get email. If I don’t feel like socializing, they will give me space. If I share a PIC or story with them they tell me they appreciate it. This is the only community I have ever belonged to that I felt like the friendship offered is unconditional. My J-Land friends don’t care what I look like. They could care less if I am skinny or fat. It doesn’t matter what kind of clothes I wear. Nope, this community will accept me any way.

The essence of this community lies in the hearts and minds of each individual that joins. If you have a kind heart and a gentle spirit you have found friends. If you are up for a fiery debate, it is available in our community. If you or a loved one of yours needs prayers or support you may find it here. If you would like to visit new places through the eyes of those who have been there, the journey is waiting for you in J-Land. If you like to be silly or read silly things, come on over to J-Land, we have it! Do you like prose and poetry? Come on in! Need a new recipe? Don’t look any further! How about arts and crafts? Our community is full of masters and teachers! Do you need advice? Oh, boy! Do we have advice! Looking to buy something that’s hard to find in your area? Just mention it here in J-Land and you’ll be steered in the right direction.

I keep a journal in AOL J-land because I have found a group of people I am proud to proclaim that I am one of. Happy Birthday, AOL J-Land! May we celebrate many more together!

52 comments:

mosie1944 said...

Bravo!!!  Well said.  Your journey into J-land has many similarities to mine.

rap4143 said...

Love reading you story about blogging....your blog is one my favorites!!!
Betty

judithheartsong said...

I have always been, and continue to be surpirsed when someone comes out of the woodwork and announces that they have been reading my journal for some time and are now coming to say hello. I still smile when I remember our first correspondence, and now we have come to a place of friendship in this little space called cyber. I am so glad you started your journal, and am so glad that you reached out my friend. Your journal is a delight. Bravo. judi

scotthlori said...

Well written!  I could relate to much of what you said.  Nice to meet you!  :o)

Lori
http://journals.aol.com/scotthlori/DiscoveringMe

madcobug said...

Very good entry. Well written. I don't do that much writing in my journal but I love to post pictures. I'm not good at  the writing part. Helen

mechants said...

I used to be a lurker too! We aren't all bad. I just like to test the water before taking a plunge, you know?

Great entry!

Ari

b4i8clover said...

You have put into words what we all go through to become a part of this new style of commmunity. It's quite a feeling of freedom, isn't it? Thanx.
Bon & Mal

rollinghillsides said...

LOVE your pleasant style of writing, this was a very enjoyable essay.   when i see an alert for "docklines" i know i'm in for an interesting story, you never let us down ... your journal is so well-written and "easygoing".   thanks for deciding to join the wonderful community.  (i haven't created a journal of my own ... don't feel i have anything of interest to write about, so i guess i'm pretty much a "silent reader", altho i do comment quite often to a few people i've gotten to know thru my daughter's journal).  btw, Mrs L is a HOOT, isn't she?  just read a few of her entries! ...  

childebrand1968 said...

We have a winner here!!  Judi?  Hello?  Send Sam his picture now, the contest is over ;)

You summed it all up, Sam.  I think the words written here describes everyone's first trips into J~Land, and the reasons why we all do what we do.  Bravo!

Though I still lurk in places (Ari said it best ;)  I'm glad to have gotten to know you and that you've had the chance to know me, too :)

Happy to have you among us....

Cat

labdancer51 said...

Your description of J-Land is wonderful.  You have put into words how I have felt myself.  All these `invisible` people are real, and they DO become friends, no matter that we may never meet them.  The help and support since I`ve had my journal has been marvellous.  Your essay is brilliant Sam !

Sandra x

sierrajazz said...

Sam!  Fabulous entry!!!  And can I ever relate.. I have done the chat rooms, the pen pals and the LURKING here.  I just started my journal and have experienced the same warm welcome as you.  What a great giving community here.  I am delighted to have discovered your journal, and wish you best of luck in the contest..I am glad I don't have to pick the winner.. We are ALL winners here as far as I am concerned.

csandhollow said...

I for one am glad that you have come to J-Land.

indigosunmoon said...

What a great entry Sam!!!!
Connie

memes121 said...

Wow. You have said everything I would have said! It is so true. I am still a newbie here but I already have a lot of J-Land friends. I read your Journal a lot. I don't always comment on some jorrnals. I spend most of my days reading them. You have a great journal friend!

ksquester said...

Sam, This is a GREAT entry. I found you through your comments in Jimmy's journal. We all kind of "find" each other don't we? I cherish my journal friends and have had the pleasure of meeting the devine Miss Heartsong. (She is everything you have thought of and more!) Congrats on being a pick on Mrs. L. list. Keep on writing and I'll keep reading.  Anne (Saturday's Child)

sonensmilinmon said...

Great entry and well said.  I also did the chat rooms - they get old quickly especially when you aren't looking for the IM's or the come on's.  Journals have been a great way to meet some awesome people.  You have been a relatively new "addition" to my circle of j-land friends.  I count myself as a lucky one.

Monica
http://journals.aol.com/photographybymon/Mamarazzi/
http://journals.aol.com/sonensmilinmon/SmilinMonsAdventures/

yakima127 said...

This is an awesome entry!  Love it!  JAE

fchgrl said...

I must admit to being a "silent reader" for over a year now of many journals. Just wanted to tell you that this entry has eased my fears of creating my own journal.  Maybe one of these days I will jump off into J-land also!

xzasporated1 said...

This is terrific.  I did the lurking thing too, for a long believing that these journalers certainly didn't want to be bothered with a comment from ME!  LOL  Now I understand how precious every comment is, and I still regret not telling them how much I was enjoying my peek into their world.

~~ jennifer

robinngabster said...

Gosh...you make me want to cry. This is beautiful. I am so glad you commented in my journal the first time and then invited me to yours. You are an incredible person and one I am happy to call a friend. Robin

http://journals.aol.com/robinngabster/Thesearethedaysofourlives/

anmyatt said...

Sam, This is a wonderful entry.  Best of luck in Judith's contest!!! You have a real talent for writing and all your entries so easy to read and understand.  ~Nikki

P.S.  Thanks for lurking by my journal, and eventually adding a comment.  I would have never known "Docklines" never existed, if you didn't.  =)

ryanagi said...

Excellent!

louie0768 said...

As usual, another great entry. I hope you never get sick of hearing that one.....hehe

I too lurked around j-land for about 4 months before I took the plunge. It was a large plunge for me to put myself out there and being the wife of a very political, well hated Republican, well, I have my work cut out for me even still.

Through Judith's contests I have slowly met my own little group that I enjoy talking with back and forth but my circle is little for now. It is very nice to know that the group I am forming accepts that I have my conservative opinions about things but see that that is not what I am all about all the time. Hence my rants....you know the ones I'm talking about.

Thanks for your wonderful words of wisdom Sam. One in J-land has named Judith, 'Her Eminence' , you are the male version of that, a peaceful, insightful, don't forget about the little things, journal to frequent.

bosoxblue6993w said...

your journal is one of my regular reads.    i, for one, enjoy your entries enormously.    keep on truckin' ... as we used to say.

schnozbeary said...

Wow! The competition is indeed fierce!! Now, one of my biggest problems is going away for a few days and returning to hundreds of alerts, because there's so much great stuff out there!! Outstanding essay!! Penny

blondepennierae said...

I'm sooo late with all my J-Land business, but I want to Congratulate you on your 'Pick of the Week'.  You so deserve it.  You have a warmth and caring that comes through your words and touches all who read them.  And now for your 'Artsy Essay'.  Sam, you have given back everything and tenfold that was offered to you.  You are such a wonderful addition to this community.  You don't know how it humbles me that you give me recognition as one of those that inspired you.  Your sense of humor is grand.  So many times you have put a smile on my face when I am fighting pain and only want to scowl.  One of the nicest things that has happened to me in this community was getting acquainted with YOU!  You have a grand entry here.  Pennie

chatzeekay said...

great about pic of the week.. Love your journal you are welcome to visit mine anytime you like. keep writing keep expressing. A journal is a wonderful place for sure HATS OFF TO YOU FOR THIS GREAT ENTRY.........

lurkynat said...

Dear SAm,
Interesting point of view...good writing!

emfeasel said...

..it's a nice family here....glad you are in it..  E

mcjerseygiri said...

You are a wonderful addition to the J-Land community. This was a great entry and I think most of us came up the same path. Some quicker than others but always with a helping hand from those who had gone before us. Welcome ((((((((Sam))))))) and I hope we all have many happy years ahead of us! Nelle :)

southernmush said...

Hello and good evening....I am glad you keep a journal here at Journal Land. I really do enjoy reading your journal very much. Your journal is quite interesting and its fascinating to read your entries you share with us readers. I hope that you continue your writing in the future.

By the way how are you doing ? How is the world treating you these days ? How is the weather in your neck of the woods ? Pretty soon Clayton County, Georgia will turn into an island with all of this rain......So tell me how are you holding up.......Keep writing.......

mutualaide said...

I know I mentioned this the first time I read your journal...right there at the very beginning -- Welcome -- and please stay, we do enjoy reading you and knowing you.  Extra special, terrific entry!!!

nyuknyukpik2 said...

Great story!!!!!!!!!

piperacharmed1 said...

I just found your journal....great entry. I too lurked for awhile before I got the courage to have my own journal. I am so thankful I did....I have met some really wonderful people.
Tracie

jevanslink said...

You said it best.  

Mrs. L

libragem007 said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! I love, love, love this wonderful entry! Just downright real life story of why keep a journal.
I'm glad to have found your journal through Judith Heartsong's contest comments link ;-)
Journally Yours,
Gem ;-)

cneinhorn said...

although I'm still not a regular poster, I'm glad you found my favorite journals link and told us the history of your journal experience!  what a fabulous entry!

~ www.jerseygirljournal.com

bvaneps834 said...

Sam,wish that I could write even a fraction as well as you do!! This was a wonderful entry and mirrored many of my feelings . I have enjoyed the journal land friends so much.

karensull12 said...

I'm so glad you decided to start up your own journal.  You are a wonderful and fascinating addition to this community.  

slbourgoyne said...

Sam

I had some trouble finding my way here.  I had never even considered looking into journals.  So little time!  It was good to see into my cousin's thoughts after so long a time.  I will keep you on my favorites and watch for new postings.  

Some of the journals you refer to sound interesting.  When my retirement finally comes through I'd like to look into this.  

Let me hear from you.

Lynn

ondinemonet said...

Sam

It has been such a pleasure to meet you! I enjoy dropping by to read what you are up to and how you are. I always feel comfortable here, like I am sitting next to a dear old friend. :) You are a great part of this community and one of my favorite people.

All my best, Carly :)

robbush6 said...

Sam, your grandkids are lucky you believe. Welcome aboard, sailor.

jtuwliens said...

This entry has winner written all over it!  There's a lot of good entries this month, but this one is my favorite.
Best,
Judith
http://journals.aol.com/jtuwliens/MirrorMirrorontheWall

emmapeeldallas said...

This is such a great entry, from a terrific guy.  You've said it all, and so very well.  Others have said it, but I'll say it too: J-land (and all of us) are so lucky to have you.

Judi
http://journals.aol.com/emmapeeldallas/talkingtomyself/

fitzzer said...

What a wonderful entry. I love your journal and am so glad you're here! ~ Lori

babyshark28 said...

Wow, great entry!
it's great to find that niche in J-land and to establish friendships
along the way :D
you did a great job boat man!

debbted said...

Excellent entry! I would not be surprised if you won the contest. I feel that every single one of us are winners anyhow. It really is a great community to be part of. I'm glad to "meet" you. ;-) Sassy

http://journals.aol.com/SassyDee50/SassysWORD
http://journals.aol.com/SassyDee50/SassysEYE

demandnlilchit said...

It's a wonderful community to be a part of! We get to share the good, the bad and the ugly with people who know exactly what we are going through.......writer's share everything....no subject is taboo to them.......blogging helps turn readers into writers and writer's are natural 'givers.'

sunnyside46 said...

isn't it great! i love it!
Marti
http://journals.aol.com/sunnyside46/MidlifeMusings

Anonymous said...

Hm hm.. that's interessting but frankly i have a hard time visualizing it... wonder what others have to say..

Anonymous said...

I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

Anonymous said...

Great post. Can’t wait to read the next ones :).