An Overview of Online Journals

Based on two year's reading of online journals, I have compiled a short overview of three that I think best represent the genre: they are distinct from one another, yet each exemplifies characteristics of good writing and design. The people who maintain them are all women, and each chooses to focus on different aspects of her life: two work in the computer industry (although one began her journal before becoming a professional programmer), and all three frequently write about writing--and reading. Below this overview, you'll find several other links to compilations of journals--some personal lists and others from webrings.






I discovered Willa's Journal when I was searching for Anne Lamotte's column--which I later found in Salon magazine; there weren't as many online journals then as there are today (over 500). Reading the journal became part of my daily routine, and I decided to share some of her writing with my freshman comp classes. Each month she writes an essay, and I particularly wanted to challenge my students with the question "How is the monthly 'essay' different from the daily journal entries?" I thought their answers would provide a fruitful discussion of the exigencies of writing a crafted, unified piece for an audience other than the self, and would help distinguish the reality of "audience analysis" from the realms of what can unfortunately become meaningless composition platitudes to the freshman writers. My question necessitated that students look at the technique and form of the two types of writing, rather than content. Willa's Journal recently celebrated its third anniversary, and has been reviewed in several publications. She also maintains a list of other online journals.

"The journal of a writer, programmer, ex-layabout leaping headlong into a new relationship, a new career, and the same old reading binge of epic proportions" (site homepage). Another online pioneer, Ceej's Battered Black Book is maintained by a programmer for Microsoft who shares her watercolors, photography, daily reflections and aspirations. Willa sites this as one of the journals she reads regularly, and its artistic merit alone is enough to justify a daily look. Ceej writes, "My task here is to communicate the way I live my life to you, who do not live my life. It's impossible to get inside anybody else's head. But it is possible to peek inside now and then, when the owner of the head holds open the door. My job here is to hold open the door.

How do I hold open the door? How can I do that well?

With clear declarative sentences, mostly. "

 Written by a screenwriter in Los Angeles, nobody knows anything is keen, its observations of current films entertaining, and its graphics appealing. Formerly known as The Paperwork, this site theorizes audience, the existence of online journals, and many aspects of writing for different purposes. The tone here is honest; the writing compelling. For anyone considering graduate school in screenwriting, the first-hand descriptions of writers' workshops are a must read, and the account of meeting a British "fan" of the journal also notable. Would you like to read Patterson's thorough exploration of her journal philosophy and other online journals ?




an assembly of journal links and lists:

"These articles and sites, presented in no particular order, are often cited by Open Pages veterans when trying to articulate the deeper essence of what they do. Each one may change the way you think about online journal writing and their authors. Each one is a must-read for anyone thinking of starting their own." --:

"Established in July of 1996, Open Pages is the premiere guide to the 'scribe tribe' -- netizens who keep journals, diaries, daily ramblings and sporadic babblings on the web...linking more than 300 diverse lives"


"The author delivers good content. Design, conceptual angle, and layout represent the icing on the cake. My focus is on readable, informative content.

  "The Mandelbrot Set is a ring of online journals which are unique, intricate, and beautiful. They are also among the best journals out there. In my opinionů"


Lisa Mongno