Advice to “increase engagement” and “get more readers” can be cruel.
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” It’s not clear where this quote originated, but it’s been around for a while.
I’ve also lost count of the number of writers — on Medium and elsewhere — who share some variation of this maxim as a newly discovered truth.
Over and over, contributors are urged to dig deep into themselves and share what seems scary.
The time a parent committed suicide. Abusive relationships. Hitting bottom emotionally.
There’s no denying that these stories draw attention.
But frankly, this advice feels reckless.
It’s like someone who jumps off a rock into a river, gets an adrenaline rush, and urges everyone around to do the same. So the next person dives in. Who wants to be a chicken? And the next…and then someone stumbles or hits an obstacle.
Maybe it doesn’t end this way. Maybe everyone jumps and celebrates a victory. That’s what we’d like to believe.
3 reasons to be squeamish about opening up your veins
(1) Too many people are sharing personal stories. It gets old.
I have to admit I can’t handle the New York Times column Modern Love. Readers (often professional writers) share stories about romance, breakups, family, and more.
Personally, I get numb after hearing too many stories. The emotion feels fake. It’s like getting all those excuses from students for “why I can’t take the exam.” When I was a college professor, I’d get them every semester. So many grandmothers died. It became hard to feel empathy.
I once met a woman who’d left a prestigious program in clinical psychology. Those programs are very competitive and she was looking forward to a good career.
“I got so bored listening to patients,” she said. She switched to the business school.