There’s such a disconnect between that photo and this post.
I love/hate it!
This is about writing.
Sometimes, solid writing advice becomes so cliched that I forget it means something worth noting.
Take, for example, the classic Show don’t tell.
Occasionally I have to stop and remember what, exactly, this is advising because it’s tossed around writing classes willy-nilly, as ubiquitous as the word “the” or “that.”
Really what it’s saying is: Is your dialogue real and subtext-y enough? Are you using specific nouns? Are you deleting every adverb?
Another writing cliche is Every story needs conflict.
Why? Are we hard-wired for schadenfreude?
I was reminded of this while walking by the West 4th Street basketball courts last week.
I’d been excited to post yet even more photos from my trip to Japan and was thinking about what I’d title the post, and then I asked myself, “But why would anyone care about a happy trip? (Besides the fact that people in the blog world are very sweet and supportive.)
“What compels me to share photos with my internet friends?”
I don’t have a good answer to #2—why I share on the internet. (Attention whoring? Connection? Validation of my existence? Deep-seated insecurity about being irrevelevant on Twitter and thus in life? All of the above?) That is something to explore in therapy.
But in thinking about #1—why would anyone care about a happy vacation—I realized, it’s simple, they don’t!
I only want to hear about someone’s happy trip for about five minutes, max, and I’ll look at 10-25 photos. (Moving forward, I’m going to try to stick to that.)
And then I butchered that Tolstoy quote:
Happy vacations are all alike; every unhappy vacation is unhappy in its own way.
The gist of every nice trip is: you ate slept walked met a few nice people saw interesting things.
What makes unhappy vacations interesting, (and unhappy situations in general interesting), is not the fact that we are jerks who thrive on others’ pain—what’s interesting is knowing the choices people make when their backs are against the wall.
We become who we are (inspiring, compelling, surprising, empathetic, lazy, apathetic) not by eating and sleeping and seeing nice things—we become who we are in those difficult decisions.
How do you handle losing your hiking boot in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail trail? What do you do when you’re lost in the Aegean Sea and women with beautiful voices are tempting you to stay forever? Do you drink yourself do death in Las Vegas after getting fired?
I’d like to add a caveat here, which is that none of this explains Anthony Bourdain, who is wildly interesting and I can watch him talk about his happy trips for HOURS, and the only writing lesson for the rest of us is that an amazing, killah point-of-view trumps all.
So, thank you blog world, because in thinking about a post for you, I re-examined a writing cliche and finally figured out what Tolstoy was getting at in Anna Karenina.
Blogging makes the world a better place!
(Or at least my corner of it!)