How to stop being a narcissist writer (in a world filled with narcissistic writers).
When Hunter S. Thompson clamored onto the writing scene in the late 60s with a cigarette dangling from his lips and aviator sunglasses shielding his eyes, he was a highly controversial flame that sparked the Gonzo Journalism movement — a fast-paced subjective style of journalism where the writer is actually part of the story being told, telling it through his or her own eyes.
And, like every generational great that came before him, Hunted S. Thompson was quickly followed by gobs and gobs of writers and journalists trying (but failing miserably) at writing just like him.
In these instances, one would have done a tremendous amount of good, following a line written by Oscar Wilde (or misattributed to Oscar Wilde)…
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
Fast-forward nearly 80 years and I’d argue Thompson’s influence is still here, as alive as it has ever been, on Medium of all places… a writing platform where anyone and everyone can write (regardless of possessing any sort of talent).
The only difference today, though, is that the topics have changed tremendously from total badassery like The Hell’s Angels to underwhelming write-ups on productivity hacks, regurgitated self-help bullshit, whiney poorly-written “open letters” and entrepreneurial advice.
(I phoned God and he said anyone who isn’t an entrepreneur writing entrepreneurial advice is going to hell).
You combine shitty topics with the writers writing on the shitty topics being far worse than the writers who originally imitated Hunter S. Thompson back in the 60s and you’ve got yourself a real fucking mess.
We’re talking someone knocked over the red wine on a bone-white leather couch, mess.
What it has created (and I’m not blaming this mess on Thompson) is narcissistic writing littered with I, I, I and I.
But, believe it or not, the issue isn’t in the narcissism in the writing but in the writing just being bad and uninteresting.
It’s not unlike the narcissistic guest at the dinner party, if she’s really fucking interesting — narcissist or not — you’ll want to listen to her again and again.
So, while reading an interesting (and even fascinating) narcissistic writer is wildly entertaining, opening up a piece of narcissistic writing from someone uninteresting is like suffering through a poorly written autobiography.
So, in my opinion, here’s how not to write like a narcissistic asshole.
First and foremost, I’d challenge you to ask yourself if you’re really as interesting as you think. And, then, I would challenge you to ask yourself if there is, perhaps, someone out there more interesting than you.
If you don’t think so, you’re a narcissist because there is always someone more interesting than you or I or your great Aunt Polly who knits voodoo dolls and once taxidermied (is that a word?) her prized guinea pig.
Once you ask yourself this question, you’ll come to the uncomfortable realization that you’re not remotely as interesting as you once thought.
Which, is wonderful, because it gives you permission to do two things that will almost certainly improve your writing…
- You can start writing about really fucking interesting people… there is a reason on Honey Copy’s website I have an entire page dedicated to interesting brands doing interesting things with their marketing.
- You can start making your life more interesting by watching less Netflix and stepping out your front door to experience and do things you’ve never experienced nor done before… have you always wanted to learn how to make pasta? Go to that pasta making class, damn it.
(If there is any truth in this world it’s that a person that knows how to make pasta is much much more interesting than a person who doesn’t).
So, I’m not sure the answer is to not be a narcissistic writer. I think the answer is figuring out whether or not you’re interesting and if you aren’t… finding someone or something to write about that is.
Charles Bukowski wrote almost entirely about himself. In fact, I’d argue he is perhaps the most narcissistic writer to ever exist…
But, people read him.
He died the year I was born, twenty-five years ago.
Yet, they still read him.
Because Bukowski had something interesting to say even if what he was saying was almost entirely about himself.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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