OVER the last two weeks I’ve been speaking about tradition with a number of accomplished women. My final installment includes a bit of a twist: The essayist Meghan Daum told me about a tradition she considers dangerous. Overuse of the “I” in storytelling is crowding out the larger world, she says.
…I feel like 70 percent of what people share on Facebook are personal essays. A lot of them are by women, writing about their experiences, and a lot of them are fantastic and smart, and rigorously thought through. But others, because of the pace of digital media, have the opportunity to rush and write something and then have something quote-unquote published. We’ve all done that; I’ve done that. I’m not casting aspersions on anybody. But that’s a real danger. Part of the process is having a process, and having an editor, and writing several drafts and having time pass before writing about this experience. The Internet has allowed a lot of first drafts to go out into the world. And when those are first-person, sometimes you get stuff that’s uncooked.
She also talks about the journalistic stakes, the role of feminism, the Rolling Stone rape scandal, how this works through the generations, and the triumph of Joan Didion.
Daum’s full piece is worth reading, and don’t miss her new book, The Unspeakable.