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Deconstructing ‘I Wrote a Thing’

18 May 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

For every essay and article I write, my process is the same. There is contemplation and research, writing and rewriting. Each piece is fact-checked for accuracy and read out loud for rhythm, sent to a first reader or two for critique, and rewritten and polished again before I finally hit “send.”

And when it is done, I paste the link into a tweet and wrestle with the impulse that never goes away—the instinct to announce my work to the world with the words, I wrote a thing.

Spend any amount of time on social media and you will see a lot of I wrote a thing. Men use it, but, according to my entirely nonscientific observations, women use it more, announcing our work in our native tongue, the universal female language of self-deprecation. I wrote a thing employs the funny, ironic, humblebrag shorthand that is common across social media, but it also evokes a familiar posture: that of a woman trying to make herself as small as possible—a woman standing with her head down and her chin tucked against her chest, hands clasped behind her back, and toe twirling in the dirt, saying, “Oh, this little heap of words here? It was nothing. No big deal. Just, you know, a thing! So maybe read it? Or don’t! Whatever!”

Maybe it’s a generational problem, and the kids today don’t struggle with reflexive self-effacement. I suspect that it’s gendered, and I wrote a thing is born of women being told, overtly and implicitly, that our stories do not matter—not the stories we write, which are still not reviewed as frequently or taken as seriously as men’s books, and not the stories we tell, which are still too often met with skepticism and shrugs.

. . . .

It feels strange to announce, plainly, Here is an essay, or, This is my novel, when we’ve been told all our lives not to brag and not to boast—until the six weeks prior to a book’s release, when our publicists beg us to do nothing but brag and boast. It feels unnatural, and if you could peek into any woman writer’s inbox, you’d probably see agonized queries from her peers: “I just got a starred review from PW. Should I tweet it?” or, “I just got a rave in the Times. Is it going to look weird if I put it on my Instagram more than once? How much is too much? Are you sure this is okay?”

Self-promotion feels weird, and risky.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG doesn’t believe that he has ever told any author, “overtly” or “implicitly” that the author’s story doesn’t matter.

Outside of the world of traditional publishing, PG doesn’t believe that he has ever heard or observed anyone else conveying that message to an author.

Various pursuits and occupation require different personal characteristics and aptitudes. Some people who have great natural talent in a field of endeavor don’t have the personal characteristics necessary to rise to the top of that field.

If someone is afraid of flying, regardless of whatever talents they possess, they are not a good candidate to become a pilot.

If someone can’t stand being involved in a contentious situation, they are not a good candidate to practice most types of law.

Ditto for fainting whenever being exposed to blood and the practice of medicine, fear of dogs and animal training, fear of fire and firefighting.

Of course, there are degrees of fear or other personal characteristics and many people are able to overcome their fears or reticence or anxiety and succeed in a field that once seemed impossible to enter.

Perhaps writing about fear or otherwise sharing it is a part of overcoming that fear. PG hopes the author of the OP falls into that category.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Writing Advice

14 Comments to “Deconstructing ‘I Wrote a Thing’”

  1. Dear OP:

    Who isn’t told not to brag or boast?

    Answer: no one.

    Sincerely,

    A man.

  2. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.
    –Proverbs 27:2

    When a man — or a woman — turns away from religion, he loses the wisdom of the centuries.

  3. OMG really? HEY LADIES WHERE ARE YOU? Generations of women have been repeatedly told that whatever they do is less, so don’t bother mentioning it. Now we’re talking about it and THIS kind of response is what we get. Haven’t you been paying attention? AT ALL?

    • We have. And we’ve noticed that the majority of the time, when women complain about something like it’s uniquely a women’s issue and some kind of manifestation of the patriarchy, it is neither.

  4. So she’s publicizing her new thing by whining about how women have always been shamed into not publicizing their things. I think this is just her way of marketing herself to a certain segment of her potential audience. Unfortunately, she’s not doing herself any favors with a different segment of her potential audience.

    • Felix J. Torres

      It’s her choice.
      Maybe she understands you can’t please everyone and is going for what she expects to be her core audience. It’s a viable strategy as long as she identified a large enough audience.

      Larry Correia was cited here recently for using the same strategy: focus on *your* (actual/expected) audience and ignore the rest. There’s plenty of room for multiple audiences out there and most are big enough to support most authors… as long as their target audience knows they’re out there.

      As always, the real danger is going unnoticed.

      • +1. A writer must choose their audience. If you allow some master, human or otherwise, to choose your audience, you are a slave, which you can be if you care to, but why?

    • Terrence OBrien

      There is a huge market of whiners, victims, and sensitives looking for others.

  5. Beware of poets that read their own poetry in public for they may have other bad habits. LL

  6. Um, I learned how to fly because I was afraid of it. If I learned more about it, perhaps I’d relax and stop having so many problems.

    I worked as a commercial pilot for a decade, and did aerobatics as well. However, I’m not comfortable as a passenger in an airliner, because I’m not at the controls. Nor do I like roller-coasters, for the same reason. So confronting my fear helped, sort-of. Ish. Mostly.

    • My mother had the same problem. Her solution was to start the alcohol infusions two hours before the flight, continue them as possible throughout the flight. (Needless to say, this also meant she had to stay in that state until reaching the hotel / home / wherever she could settle down for a while – same issue with anyone else driving a car).

      For some reason, I never had that problem. Even with a bad experience as a child – my parents had arranged with a friend to take their airplane-mad son up in a small plane. Unfortunately, just as I was coming down with a stomach bug…

      I love flying. It’s only all the stupid stuff on the ground that keeps me from doing it these days.

  7. I think she has a point and I see it all the time comparing women writer friends with male writer friends on social media. Thinking back, it took me years to discover – albeit in a traditional area of freelance journalism that is pretty much defunct now – that male writers would send in lists of books they wanted to review, mostly by male authors, while female writers, myself included, waited to be asked. It had honestly never even occurred to me to do it and a quick check with friends revealed that they too hadn’t known it was possible. I’m experiencing it now, with my new book. I’ve been writing for many years, more or less successfully, sometimes self published, sometimes trad published. Suddenly, this particular book is being taken much more seriously than pretty much anything I’ve written. I think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s better than some of my other work – but hey, it’s factual, it’s hard hitting and it’s ‘conventionally’ a book that they’ll be able to sell to men. Oh, and by the way. Perhaps part of women’s problem is that whenever they stick their heads above the parapet, with a good, thought-provoking piece, about the way they see the world, some man – I can count three of them in this thread so far – well done guys for conforming to your stereotype – will pop up to tell them to shut up and stop their whining.

  8. Richard Hershberger

    “PG doesn’t believe that he has ever told any author, “overtly” or “implicitly” that the author’s story doesn’t matter.”

    Just three days ago you responded to an essay with this:

    “…for PG, the OP reflected an obsessive focus on race.”

    • Could it possibly be that PG thought the “OP reflected an obsessive focus on race” didn’t help to make the OP’s story matter?

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