Gordon Atkinson, the wonderful Real Live Preacher, has posted on blog-induced schizophrenia. I’m sure that’s not quite how he would classify the post, but I think it’s a good summary of the heart of the issue. Having posted a wonderful, lyrical peace about his struggle with depression and the effect it has on his loved-ones, he has now felt the need to talk about the weirdness of writing about your personal life in a public forum.
I love Gordon’s work. He’s probably the main reason I got into reading (and later, trying to write) blogs. He writes creatively, gently, humbly and humorously about the intersection of life and faith. He is a Baptist minister in the states, but he writes a broken, searching journeyman rather than a know-all-the-answers leader. It is incredibly refreshing, in an online world where so many ‘Christian’ blogs seem to be so harsh and divisive, to have someone who writes as if the world is full of wonder, and every person in it is beautiful. I really do see something of Jesus in how Gordon writes.
I get the impression that ‘back in the day’ Gordon’s blog was pretty much anonymous. He was Real Live Preacher, a caricature and invention, detached from the real world and able to say pretty much whatever. RLP ≠ Gordon. His family, and more importantly his church congregation, didn’t know about this tiny part of the internet and even if they found it they wouldn’t know it was him. But somewhere along the way the line got blurred, his real name got out, and church members and family started reading his words. And that goes and causes all sorts of problems…
My first couple of attempts at blogging were anonymous. I can really understand the attraction of writing that way. I had a blog called ‘Honesty’ where I could write about anything, without fear of friends, family, partners seeing what I put there. It led to a type of writing that was very cathartic, but also quite exaggerated. I admitted sins that I wouldn’t tell my family about, wrote painfully honest posts about struggles; but I also over-dramatised things, and wrote opinions that weren’t necessarily my own… They sounded good though.
I now have a ‘named’ blog. My parents-in-law read these pages, as do my wife and some of her colleagues (I think). I now don’t as freely admit sins or struggles, the ups and downs of my daily life, however cathartic that would be for me, for exactly the same reason that Gordon has written his last post: I value the lives of my loved-ones too much to make them public; I value my friends too much to tell them what’s going on in this forum.
Like Gordon, I don’t really know what blogs are for. I haven’t quite resolved to myself quite why I write here. I struggle with the same schizophrenic tension, wanting to excise my inner demons in this sphere, and yet not wanting those close to me to find these things out via a random page of the internet. I have thoughts bubbling over in the back of my mind that I would love to post here, but I don’t know the effect they might have on Andrea or others, so they haven’t made it yet. They may never.
Whatever this medium is for I think it will always have this tension. As RLP says, we can’t write fully honest journals of our lives if those close to us read them. I think that we can also never be fully creative in the way that we write about our lives in a ‘named’ blog, because the effect will never be detached from the world in which we live. Someone is always going to question, to misunderstand. I want to talk to you about why I am struggling with calling myself a ‘Christian’ now, to wrestle with that issue and get it out of my head. But if I do so will you misunderstand me? Will you think that I have lost my faith, or the validity of what I have said here before?
I guess its good to know that I’m not the only one wrestling with this tension. Have a look at some of Gordon’s work. He’s great.