banner-2748305__480Today’s advice is for essay writing, specifically–and a little hard to swallow for those of us who enjoy telling personal stories…

Phillip Lopate‘s dictum: The trick is to realize that one is not important, except insofar as one’s example can serve to elucidate a more widespread human trait and make readers feel a little less lonely and freakish.

–found in the New Ohio Review 22 Feature: Of Essays and Exes called “Writing What You Know and Whom You’ve Known” by Joey Franklin

What do you think of that dictum? What’s your writing dictum?

4 thoughts on “a bit of writerly advice

  1. I think so. The author expanded further, saying a “central rule for writing essays: What makes a story or question important to a writer is not always what makes the story or question important to a reader.” Not ALWAYS. Of course, sometimes, as a reader, I enjoy a writer enough that what makes a piece important to me is EXACTLY what makes it important to that writer. Maybe from a writer I don’t know I want the piece to be relate-able to my own experiences. This all begs the question of why we read, doesn’t it?

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  2. I always say that I am willing to embarrass myself so others won’t have to.
    that’s my excuse for being personal.
    To your point Malcolm Gladwell almost never gets personal but when he does it like when your teacher in 5th grade brings their kid to school, you realize she’s human.

    He talked about the loss of his father in the last episode of his Podcast and it was very moving.

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  3. You don’t need an excuse to get personal in your writing, I don’t think–but yours is a good (and funny) one. Humor, I think, helps writers from seeming to navel gaze too long. I admit I haven’t read much Gladwell–but that’s interesting. I wonder if he tries to come at his arguments from a more communal line of thought and leave the reader to get personal?? I’ll have to look up that podcast episode. Thanks!

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