Being able to write is a gift. Communicating even seemingly simple thoughts and feelings to others, whether one-on-one or one-to-many, is hard and knotty, and it requires care and thought and maybe letting go of some preconceived notions. But the feeling you get when you’ve succeeded in getting across something that’s been knocking around in your head for however long is exhilarating and, one hopes, inspiring.
Love is a gift. Opening yourself up to someone else, allowing them to see your most private, possibly-loathed-by-you parts, is terrifying and difficult, and it requires care and thought and maybe letting go of some preconceived notions. But to love someone and to be loved is beautiful and liberating and mind-altering in the best way, even if the prospect of pain lurks.
You look at these two statements, which in my mind are facts, and it is pretty easy to see why I hate the strain of personal-essayish “relationship writing” that I guess popped up during the alt-weekly boom and that has such a stranglehold around so much of the popular discourse around dating. This strand of writing, with its cutesy nicknames and shortcuts to “good stories” that mow down nuance and what really happened, and its reliance on meanness/stories about shitty relationships because people don’t wanna read “I’m so happy, I’m so happy” when they’re in between tasks at a job that’s not 100% perfect, and its implicit insistence on hewing to certain societal norms because who has time to change the world when you have another four blog posts to crank out in the next four hours and besides, being “open” in writing is a way to bring in more readers, doesn’t just sacrifice those two gifts; it consumes them wholly, like a wildfire, fanning way beyond the origin point and sprinkling even seemingly faraway places with its corrosive ashes.
(Also the writing is often awful, sacrificing craft because who needs to polish up prose when you are essentially dangling the prospect of o-m-g-s-e-x in front of readers?)
Some writers are exempt from this critique because their work acknowledges the humanity at the core of the topic—Jen Doll, Judy McGuire, Cheryl Strayed, Rich Juzwiak, I’m sure there are others—but I worry that they are drowned out by the shortcut-takers and people who tell stories populated entirely by archetypes.