The Personal vs. the Sensational

JordanMusings, Personal Essay

You know those wild headlines abounding on the Internet, so sensational you can’t help but click on them: The woman who must choose between two life-threatening situations, the day that man’s life changed irrevocably, the amazing, life-changing event that you must see to believe…

Behind many of these headlines is often legitimately good writing, and these kinds of stories where Big Things happen to people and change their lives are certainly fun, inspiring and moving to read about.

But I’m drawn more to what you might call the “quotidian” in people’s lives–small, daily, ordinary moments, writ large, that connect us through shared human experience. Sometimes, the big experiences can leave you feeling a little hollowed out, with a case of “now what,” or “well that will never happen to me.” But stories of ordinary life plug us in, light us up with feelings of seeing and being seen.

Writing like the wondrous Maggie May Etheridge, or Gayle Brandeis, or Antonia Malchik or the writing on Jen Pastiloff’s Manifest-Station.

There’s nothing I love to read more than the stories of parents grappling with the messy, humiliating, exhausting, but also exhilarating realities of child rearing. It’s real, it’s gritty, it’s as in the moment as you get.

I’m also a sucker for stories about grief–because no matter how different our stories, there’s something universal in how we, the living, grapple with what remains after the loss of a beloved, or a familiar celebrity, or even a stranger whose life intersected with our own.

Work can compel me as well–the things we do for money, right? The people we see day after day, more hours than our own spouses–how do these relationships shape us? What insights do we glean while on other people’s agendas?

So, I know I will continue to click on the wild headlines from time to time because they know just how to push my buttons–but I will come back time and time again to the faithful font of real life, and I hope you will, too.


Jordan’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Brain, Child, Coachella Review,  Medium–Human Parts, Modern Loss, Mommyish, The Nervous Breakdown, New York Times (Motherlode), ReWire Me, Role/RebootThe Rumpus, The San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, Sweatpants & Coffee, the Washington Post, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer and more.

If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Also check out my books: Night Oracle, Forged in GraceMake a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life, with Rebecca Lawton.

The Second Annual Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with me and Martha Alderson happens at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 1-3, 2015. Fills fast!


JordanThe Personal vs. the Sensational