Translating Personal to Universal Language

As an online media outlet, Too Shy to Stop competes with blogs and online newspapers/magazines. We don’t really fit into a genre, and we’re kind of tough to define. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we do want to offer a unique product with content that readers can’t find anywhere else.

humancannonballPersonal essays are probably our most popular offerings. Though I was initially against featuring only personal essays, I am beginning to embrace them. My biggest concern is that the personal essay can be very self-absorbed.

(Pictured at left: That would make a cool story, by Brent and MariLynn)

“Why would anyone want to read about my life/experience?” is a question the writer must constantly ask.

However, we have had some serious success with compelling personal essays run on a weekly basis: Ana Is an Intern, Niko’s College Counsel, Mermaid in Manhattan, and Japan Jargon have all been recurring features on Too Shy to Stop. Peter has also written some great personal essays that involve music, books, and film.

I keep asking myself how each of these columns is different from a blog, though. Blogs usually contain spur-of-the-moment thoughts. Our personal essays are heavily edited and revised. How are they different from the content found in online literary magazines? I’m not sure yet.

Recently, I was actually inspired by a job advertisement posted by NonSociety, the blog founded by Julia Allison. She is a proponent of “lifecasting“, which is basically an extended personal essay told through various forms of digital media.

“What is a lifecast? It’s our experts creatively opining on their area of expertise while also giving the audience a glimpse into their lives. It’s really just the next step in multi-media art and expression. It’s part memoir, part scrapbook, part like a tattered notebook in which the personality jots thoughts and ideas and pictures about their subject matter. Ultimately, it exists to tell a story – but one which could only be told through the tools of technology…”

Unfortunately, many of the people lifecasting today don’t offer the most exciting content. With Too Shy to Stop, I find it extremely important to show that young people can be intelligent, ambitious, and creative. I am completely sick of the way that mainstream media portrays the typical American 2o-something, and I want to demonstrate the alternative.

I really don’t want to compete with online newspapers, which are experts at handling and reporting breaking content. The New York Times does a great job with it arts and culture section, and I will not claim that our work even compares. However, I do want our work to inspire and inform our audience.

1 thought on “Translating Personal to Universal Language”

  1. I think the term “lifecasting” is fantastic. It perfectly describes the common thread between your successful, recurring essays (Mermaid in Manhattan, Japan Jargon, etc…). It’s not surprising to me at all that these personal essays are more well-received than the more generic, spur-of-the-moment blog. People like the idea of living vicariously through someone else’s stories. Most of us don’t live lives that generate the experiences that your Mermaid girl tells on a regular basis, so it’s fun to see to see their eyes – whether we agree with their lifestyle or not =) And I disagree with the statement “Why would anyone want to read about my life/experience?”. There’s always something to learn from other’s experiences – no matter how boring or uneventful they might seem to the person writing them. I think any writer would be surprised at how seemingly menial things are translated to important events given the right audience.

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