Sometimes I sit down at my computer thinking I’ll write something, but nothing comes out and I wonder, “How do you write?” And then I think, “Not at all.”
Hamilton Nolan recently wrote an article for Gawker called, “Journalism Is Not Narcissism,” in which he urged young journalists to write about other people instead of writing about their own breakup or getting the wrong thing at the coffee shop.
To this I say, what are other people but more confusing versions of me? It’s like if I had gold in my backyard, but instead of digging for that gold I went into someone else’s backyard and asked them what gold is. Isn’t having actual gold better than just asking someone a bunch of questions about gold and maybe writing their answer down wrong?
Sure, other people probably have lives worth living, but if that’s the case maybe they should be the ones doing the writing, since after having lived in my brain and written about what’s going on there I usually only have enough energy to watch a season of “Prime Suspect” and go to bed.
Nolan makes the point that writing about oneself is narcissistic, but isn’t writing about someone else just enabling narcissism in other people? By only writing about themselves aren’t today’s Lena and Leonard Dunhams saving other people from secondhand narcissism?
Nolan is concerned that “journalism” has become conflated with “memoir” but isn’t that better than if “journalism” had become conflated with “dick pic.” That would suggest that people didn’t know the difference between journalism and photojournalism, which would be troubling indeed.
The fact is that writers love it when other writers write about themselves because then you can basically read about yourself without having to write anything. This is a win-win proposition because if there’s one thing writers do truly hate, that thing is writing. Why not make it a little more fun by reading about someone else’s HPV scare?