The ships log and blogs

Andrew Sullivan on “Why I blog“. Brilliant writing. It’s a must read for writers and bloggers.

In journeys at sea that took place before radio or radar or
satellites or sonar, these logs were an indispensable source for
recording what actually happened. They helped navigators surmise where
they were and how far they had traveled and how much longer they had to
stay at sea. They provided accountability to a ship’s owners and
traders. They were designed to be as immune to faking as possible. Away
from land, there was usually no reliable corroboration of events apart
from the crew’s own account in the middle of an expanse of blue and
gray and green; and in long journeys, memories always blur and facts
disperse. A log provided as accurate an account as could be gleaned in
real time.

As you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in
time as you move forward in pages—the opposite of a book. As you piece
together a narrative that was never intended as one, it seems—and
is—more truthful. Logs, in this sense, were a form of human
self-correction. They amended for hindsight, for the ways in which
human beings order and tidy and construct the story of their lives as
they look back on them. Logs require a letting-go of narrative because
they do not allow for a knowledge of the ending. So they have plot as
well as dramatic irony—the reader will know the ending before the
writer did.

Anyone who has blogged his thoughts for an extended time will
recognize this world. We bloggers have scant opportunity to collect our
thoughts, to wait until events have settled and a clear pattern
emerges. We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge. This is
partly true for all journalism, which is, as its etymology suggests,
daily writing, always subject to subsequent revision. And a good
columnist will adjust position and judgment and even political loyalty
over time, depending on events. But a blog is not so much daily writing
as hourly writing. And with that level of timeliness, the
provisionality of every word is even more pressing—and the risk of
error or the thrill of prescience that much greater.

No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or
constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s
are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a
blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter
can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can
spend months or years before committing words to the world. For
bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing
what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more
accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing
out loud.

You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed
point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the
exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs
is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a
private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it
happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A
few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as
correspondence could be—but usually posthumously, or as a way to
compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a
blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most
personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and
immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and
exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.


About Gautam

Gautam is a HR professional interested in how emerging technologies are impacting work, careers and organizations.

Posted on November 2, 2008, in blogging, online, personal, recruiting, social media, thought provoking. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The ships log and blogs.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: