February 13, 2015
As of today I have decided to keep a diary again — just a place where I can write my thoughts and opinions when I have a moment. Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen.
— Sylvia Plath, 1932-1963
On February 13, 1999, I began the first essay in what would become Markings with that quotation from Sylvia Plath. I wrote it as a word processor file, and then used the tools available at GeoCities, a popular free hosting service, to format and upload it for presentation on the World Wide Web.
It had taken me almost a week to come to that moment. I was one year out of the classroom, sitting in my study, casting about for ideas about how I could fill my days, how I could perhaps “do something” with my writing. Without the structure of a teaching schedule, I was sinking faster and deeper into the February Funk I have been susceptible to all of my life.
I do not remember now how I fell into the world of “online journaling,” what keywords I might have used in which search engine that led me to one, and then another, and then another of the many “personal sites” that had been springing up since about 1995. These online diaries were being produced by ordinary people, some of them professional writers but most of them not, who wrote about their everyday experiences as a form of social commentary or personal history. There was a loose organization of some of the practitioners of the art. I joined several e-mail discussion lists, introduced myself, began reading others’ efforts, and thus became a member of the tribe.
I was nervous, really, that Saturday that I pushed the “upload” button and invited readers into my life. It seemed arrogant to think total strangers might be interested in what I was doing. Were people who actually did know me even interested?
I left the free hosting service and secured my own domain, silkentent.com. Somehow, I acquired readers, and wrote often enough that my content was indexed by search engines, so that people looking for explanations of “The Silken Tent” or directions for writing a love letter or any of the other random things I wrote about were led to my work.
About a week ago, two veteran journalers, old-timers, began reminiscing about the old days. They established a Facebook group, and word spread, so that by the end of the weekend some 300 people were once more a community. Some of us have been reading each other for years, some of us maintain personal contact and friendship even though we are not maintaining public sites anymore.
What became an online social media class reunion came at a good time for me. It’s my “journalversary” today, sixteen years. I had failed to mark the anniversary last year, because I was in my usual February Funk. From the long threads of discussion in the OLJ group, someone asked if any of us felt revved up again about writing and posting.
I am, at least today. My usual winter doldrums have been complicated by additional concerns. I had heart surgery a month ago. The procedure I mentioned awaiting in my last post led to the placement of two stents in the artery popularly known as “the widowmaker.” It’s very likely that the blockages I had were causing the fatigue and the depression that I had been experiencing for more than a year. In the month since the surgery I have begun to feel better every day. The depression has lifted, and I’m back to new work in fiction, writing toward the annual application deadlines I face every spring.
I take the title of this piece, “Spit, Glance, Upload,” from a concept an early online journaler advanced. These pieces, these entries, these essays, whatever we called them, were not highly polished gems that would become our personal versions of Walden, or Slouching Toward Bethlehem, or Notes of a Native Son. They were, instead, first-draft-and-a-half efforts. We spit them out onto the screen, glanced at them to see that they were reasonably sensible and had most of the words spelled right, and then uploaded them.
I have spit, glanced, and uploaded more than 700 posts. You can read the first one here. I’m still in the game, still trying to keep and hold the rapture of my one wild and precious life. Thank you for reading, so much, so often.