Journaling has long been seen as a practice that can increase one’s mental well-being, but recent studies have shown that it can also have a positive effect on one’s mental well-being. James Pennebaker, a psychologist of the University of Texas at Austin concluded that journaling can actually strengthen immune cells called T-lymphocytes (article). I have always been a journaler, though it comes and goes in seasons, and while taking Electronic Literature I began to think about journaling and its place in electronic literature, especially after Professor Whalen mentioned a journaling website called 750words in class one day. The brief explanation he gave in class intrigued me therefore, as is my custom, I jotted down a doodle about it on my hand. Upon my first visit to the website, I was impressed with its simplicity as I was greeted with this heading:
Hello, welcome to a little thing called 750 Words
I read on about how the creator of 750 words, Buster Benson, was inspired by a practice found in the book The Artist’s Way known as morning pages in which a person writes down three pages (roughly 750 words, thus the name) of handwritten stream-of-consciousness free write every morning. The concept is that free writing every morning gets your mind organized and clears your head for the rest of the day, as well as boosts creativity. Benson found the practice so helpful that he decided to come up with a website in which the concept of morning pages could be carried out electronically, and solely electronically. Benson spends the first paragraph explaining the purpose of 750words: “You can’t just fart out 3 pages without running into your subconscious a little bit… 750 words takes a bit of effort, and it never fails to get me typing things that I have wanted to articulate without realizing it. And that’s the point.”
Each day’s journal entries are saved in an organized fashion, and there is a point system that is implemented to keep you motivated. The point system is actually pointless, much like the points in the game Passage. The points are not compared with others, you can’t “win”, and you are not rewarded for points. They are merely a way to motivate you to write more, and it works! If you write anything at all on a certain day you get one point. If you write 750 words you get two points, and the points are multiplied more and more every day you write in a row. Tiny boxes across the top of the screen show you which days you succeeded to write and which days you did not.
750words.com is an interesting strand of electronic literature. It is most certainly “born digital” and functions only electronically. It is most certainly literary in nature, insofar as private journaling is considered literature, which it most certainly is. One of my favorite pieces of literature is Blaise Pascal’s Pensées. In French, “pensées” means “thoughts”, and that’s just what Pascal’s work is. It is a collection of thoughts that occurred to him throughout the day that he jotted down to remember. It was his personal journal. Luckily this collection of thoughts was not lost somewhere, and we can enjoy the brilliance of Pascal’s mind today. 750words.com operates much like a private journal. No one can see your journal entries, it is not a blog site. Without the password to your account, no one could access your entries. Perhaps if Pascal had used this website, we would still be trying to gain access to his journal entries. Instead he wrote them down in handwriting, they were found upon his death, and released later. Moral of the story: use 750 words daily, but hand-written journaling cannot be replicated.