Art of the (Im) Personal Essay

Oct 4, 2008 at 8:50 PM

The personal essay used to be a secret tool employed by the very few. Personal essays were associated only with the elite in society. Why?

Those who could actually get a personal essay published were those who could successfully work their way past a question from the publishing venue:

"Why do we care?"

In the response to that one question was the cruel death of some, presumably amazing, articles and essays that we will never ever get to read. An unfathomable loss to society. Maybe. We will never know. And that's the point.

I personally am completely in line with this new form of publishing and I hope it blows the old one out of the water. I think any person should be able to publish anything they want. If it's crap, let the readers decide. It was only because it was uneconomical to do so before that it wasn't done. There were overhead costs.

So, someone without a satisfactory answer to the publisher's eternal question ended up with secret manuscripts piled up in the attic for no one but their great-grandchildren to find.


What you think of as the blog post is actually a personal essay. Sometimes they are also SHORT STORIES and sometimes they are more of a diary - completely bucking any form at all. Sometimes they are only used in lieu of email (which itself is in lieu of emails)

There is a very well defined tech to writing personal essays. Read "The Art of the Personal Essay" if you don't believe me.

The personal essay was recently stolen. It was stolen by YOU.

And thank God for that!

Now, it is no longer the sole proprietary field of the elite and the notable.

Now, any one of us may blog or write what we want.

Most of the time we end up writing about ourselves, and we've become proficient at it. I am daily engaged by the fascinating and humorous words that my friends write. And I never fail to find joy in the amazing preciousness of the simplicity and economy of communication lines in our society that allows it, the superb culture that generated the easy lifestyle we enjoy that makes it so we can rise above a simple fight for survival and create art in the form of a simple blog post.

Yes, I'm glorifying it. But it can easily be glorious. And I'm sure you know of an example wherein a simple blog post made you cry, decide to do good in the world or find a moment of peace within yourself. And that is glorious.

I loved writing, my whole life. I had no idea I was in such good company. I revel in the amazing fact that my friends are also writers. It was a secret! Now the secret is out.

The absolute freedom and economy in communication now available online (easily accomplishing communication with minimal energy or cost involved) that we take for granted as bloggers is a truly amazing leap forward for the personal essay. And, although the snobby high-brow among us, limited by class prejudices, believe we're damaging literature, We're not.

We're improving the art of the personal essay by beating it up and honing it into a truly marketable and amazing skill. Every science or art in history has gone through this evolution. It always results in a more useful art. More people doing something and more people getting more enjoyment from life cannot possibly lower the quality of the art -- or you're defining quality incorrectly.

As with anything that evolves, more economical ways are being found to accomplish the end goal, and that results in a great deal of poor quality product, but always humanity finds the wheat from the chaff and we end up with something golden. It is the golden posts that define the art of the blog.

So, as you all know, blogs are an evolving and wonderful place to be right now.

Sure, there is a lot of crap created, too.

I don't know how many times I've read a post where ellipses replaced all other punctuation. (As in: what am I thinking... I'm wandering... stream of consciousness... Follow me... even though this post is all about angst... and woe...)

But there are also SHINING EXAMPLES of amazingly well written and thought provoking pieces. Well done, bloggers.

If I follow you, or link to you, You know this. You not only write blogs, you read blogs, and you're seeking out the good writers. There are two sides to blogging, and we all work to give as well as we receive around here.

And that is where blogging is, evolving as a multi-flow art and science into something I am very excited to be a small part of.


The saddest thing about the evolution of any science or art is those who are left behind but rightly deserve a place within it.

Twisting in the wind, so to speak. And our older generations, not raised in the lightning quick computer age, and very rarely even owning computers, are sitting right there, twisting in the wind right now.


So why not try to take along with us the people who came before us?

We all know the archetypal cliché -- a young person finds hope and humor in the wise words from an older person they run into when not expecting wisdom: wizened, toothless, yet sharp-as-a-tack, knowing. Happens in books or movies all the time.

I am going to pore through my life looking for an interesting and never published item written by someone else - the blog version of the above cliché.

I am going to look for someone older, or just not cursed with blessed with the computer skills prerequisite to having and using a blog. I'm going to ask them for a true story from their life - something they'd like the world to know. A brief personal essay.

Failing that, I'm going to find something that never made it past the editor's question or never got a chance to. And I'm going to post it to my blog. Something that nowadays would totally have been mandatory to post about, and would have been a GREAT post by my own definition.

I'm calling my project the Im-Personal Post Project. Join if you want. Spread the news, and ask everyone to tag it as "impersonal post" or "impersonal post project" or something so I can find the other posts in the project. Let's find something that we'd all want to know and post it to the world for everyone to read.

I think it'd be great. Or at least has a chance to achieve greatness.

1 Responses to Art of the (Im) Personal Essay

  1. Kat Says:

    I totally agree with you.

    Also like the idea of the impersonal post project - though I don't know if I'll do it. I just sit down and type stuff - its not planned or prepared for. If I come across something, I might!