On Twitter the other day, I found a link to a lovely article about LiveJournal nostalgia by Lindsey Gates-Markel (@LGatesMarkel on Twitter). She's one of a pool of us who grew up with LiveJournal and who found ourselves and our creativity supported and shaped by its community:
I'm one of the few people I know who stuck around here on LiveJournal, and not because I thought it was perfect for social networking, just because it was where I kept my brain. LiveJournal was where I made sense of my world and decided what kind of person I wanted to be, and tried it out for size. In the early days, I could make mistakes, and post bad drawings, and it didn't matter; the community was forgiving and they were just like me, people who were still trying to figure out what they were doing, and making their own mistakes. Now I can still post stuff I'm not sure about here, because most people I know have left LiveJournal and it's almost like having a private diary. I have a terrible memory, and it really helps me get a sense of what I've been doing if I can go back through it.
I once had dinner with a well-known author who'd been on tour and asked her how she could remember all the many people and places she'd met and seen. And she said she wouldn't, she'd just remember a few key things. That made me sad; I thought, I don't want some day to get to the pinnacle of a career - where a lot of people wish they could be - and not even remember what's happened. If even that famous person can't remember these thing so many people dream about, it's like they never happened, and what's the point?
Another very talented (and I would say, well-known) author friend told me she just wasn't happy yet, she couldn't quite get to that place in her career that she wanted to reach, where everyone knows her name, and she found it depressing. That also made me think. I don't want to stake my happiness on a future goal, I need to find it along the way, or I might never be content. And I want to be content - having the time to draw, have good friends, see the world a bit - way more than I want to be famous or remembered after I die. And I think the way to be content is to notice what's happening around me, and keeping my blog really helps with that.
Experimental lino-cut study of a pine cone
I think, in a way, that's become my religion, simply 'noticing things'. Whether you believe in a creator or not, if you can imagine one, try to picture how he/she/it thinks up things and makes them, a bit like an artist. Artists love to have people look - really look - at our work, and notice the details we've put into things we've made, ask thoughtful questions, and treat our creations with respect by giving us credit for them. I think that's a healthy way for me to see the world, as a place full of someone else's artwork that deserves close attention, questioning, care, and credit where credit's due. And having a blog makes me stop and do that. It helps me notice the amazing people around me, it helps me think about the work I've created (sometimes just having a blog inspires me to create something), it helps me remember the people I've met and the places I've visited. It lets me get involved in drawing challenges with people and have fun seeing what they can do and show off my own more playful stuff, instead of just being focused on my commissioned work.
Another #ShapeChallenge-inspired drawing
I love Twitter, and it's pretty much the only way people find their way to my blog, when I link to a blog post. But Twitter is often reactive. The things that people share are often things that outrage or amuse them, but it doesn't leave much space for developing a train of thought. I like it best for posting images and cartoons, because so much can be communicated with those. But if I try to have a thoughtful argument, I do much better to take it to my blog and write an article about it.
Responding to the Charlie Hebdo attacks with ideas for people who wanted to get into making comics
A Twitter audience also doesn't give much mercy if I'm not certain of what I think from the outset. And I'm very seldom certain about anything; I like talking with people to help me develop my argument; I need the chance to say stupid things, have people thoughtfully counter what I say, and learn from that. But with Twitter, I can say that stupid thing and that could be the thing that gets retweeted, leaving the whole context behind.
The other problem with Twitter (and Facebook) is that things I've worked hard on, or thought a lot about, drift down the feed and get lost. Whereas, say, I want to remember the names of people I met at Kempston Library Festival, I can pop 'jabberworks livejournal kempston' into Google and the article from 2012 will come up instantly.
I miss my old LiveJournal community, but I love the speed that things can travel on Twitter; I love how I tweeted links to the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign articles and lots of people were talking about the issues right away. I love how people can comment on LiveJournal, but they can just as easily comment on Twitter or Facebook or wherever they want to say their bit. It's easier to have a discussion on Twitter about something when there's a blog article I can refer people back to, for context. So a combination of LiveJournal and Twitter, that's what works best for me.
I would feel silly if I tried to champion some big return to LiveJournal (popular now only really in Russia, I think). It's like trying to say MySpace might be cool again. (Ha ha!) But LiveJournal is there for me, and I'm comfortable with it, so I'll keep using it. People don't seem to mind coming to visit me in my eccentric blog home, as long as I write or draw something worth reading or looking at. Then again, maybe just because it is so totally uncool, it will take on a sort of retro glow, like Pac-Man or Atari, who knows.
Using LiveJournal to help me process the last election results
LiveJournal's not perfect. People tell me it can be hard to comment if they're not already a member; they have to jump through a few hoops to say something. (There used to be a horrible problem with spam comments, so the programmers must've dealt with it very strictly.)
Good things about LiveJournal:
* It's suprisingly Google-friendly. I think that's because it's such an old network, and its HTML format is very simple for webspiders to crawl through. (Can you sense I have no idea what I'm talking about? Yes, that's good.)
* It's simple. Our studio used to have a Wordpress blog and we kept having problems with images shifting about and doing strange things. Then we lost it completely and we'd forgotten to back it up, so that was that. LiveJournal's never once lost anything I've done. I even learned some basic HTML.
* It's slightly better than it used to be. There have been a few upgrades: pictures are easier to load; you don't really need to know any HTML. But not so much has changed that it's confusing.
* It's quiet. I can blog and blog and no one but my parents will care a hoot about what I'm doing unless I go tweet a link. That's rather nice sometimes. My parents feel more in touch with me.
So there you go.
I love you, LiveJournal. Thanks for being there for me.
Ha ha, I haven't written such a long a blog post about myself for ages, it feels like the old days. If you've got this far, thanks for sticking with me! :)