01 April 2012

The Value of the Personal

I just heard of someone who was rejected as a potential contributor to a website because his writing used the personal “I,” and wasn’t objective enough.  This website wants all of its writing to be completely objective, with no personal experience at all–which is another way of saying that it wants the writing to be dry and personality-free.  I’ve been teaching writing at the college level for over fifteen years now, and I know from experience that while there is a certain value in the ability to write completely objectively, that type of writing is useful only when there’s a great need to get facts completely accurate.  And the idea of considering the use of the personal “I” to be poor writing is simply hogwash, for what do any of us really have to share with others that can help them other than our personal experiences?

People can learn from my failures, from your successes, from her trials and errors.  When I read writing that shows insight and intuition and passion, that writing strikes me very deeply, and it affects me on the level of my humanity.  When I read writing that focuses solely on facts and figures and objectivity, it affects me only on the level of my intellect, and that really isn’t very deep at all.  It certainly doesn’t touch me as a human being who’s sharing this world with many other human beings.

Of course, some people share too much.  But far too many people don’t share enough to allow us to see their humanity, their intellect, their personality.  Because they’ve been told so much not to use “I” in their writing, they think that doing so somehow is poor writing.  From experience I know that that’s garbage–writing touches me deeply when someone is sharing their own experiences, hopes, dreams, and passions.

You have a lot of valuable experience inside of you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to start sharing it with others.  Perhaps it’s time for you to trust that your experience is interesting and valuable, and when you do so you just may find that other people find solace and comfort when they realize that they share with you many of the same thoughts, feelings, hopes, frustrations–you name it.  When you share with others, you help to give them a sense of validation for their feelings, and you’re helping them in ways that you probably couldn’t even imagine.

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