For every essay and article I write, my process is the same. There is contemplation and research, writing and rewriting. Each piece is fact-checked for accuracy and read out loud for rhythm, sent to a first reader or two for critique, and rewritten and polished again before I finally hit “send.”
And when it is done, I paste the link into a tweet and wrestle with the impulse that never goes away—the instinct to announce my work to the world with the words, I wrote a thing.
Spend any amount of time on social media and you will see a lot of I wrote a thing. Men use it, but, according to my entirely nonscientific observations, women use it more, announcing our work in our native tongue, the universal female language of self-deprecation. I wrote a thing employs the funny, ironic, humblebrag shorthand that is common across social media, but it also evokes a familiar posture: that of a woman trying to make herself as small as possible—a woman standing with her head down and her chin tucked against her chest, hands clasped behind her back, and toe twirling in the dirt, saying, “Oh, this little heap of words here? It was nothing. No big deal. Just, you know, a thing! So maybe read it? Or don’t! Whatever!”
Maybe it’s a generational problem, and the kids today don’t struggle with reflexive self-effacement. I suspect that it’s gendered, and I wrote a thing is born of women being told, overtly and implicitly, that our stories do not matter—not the stories we write, which are still not reviewed as frequently or taken as seriously as men’s books, and not the stories we tell, which are still too often met with skepticism and shrugs.
Even as a feminist, a mother trying to raise self-confident girls, and an author who’s spent years speaking out about these issues; even after publishing 12 novels and umpteen essays; even after noticing, and cringing, whenever I see I wrote a thing, I find it hard not to use the phrase myself. Judging from the number of women I see using it—smart women, accomplished women, award-winning women, who announce their awards by tweeting I won a thing—I’m not alone.
It feels strange to announce, plainly, Here is an essay, or, This is my novel, when we’ve been told all our lives not to brag and not to boast—until the six weeks prior to a book’s release, when our publicists beg us to do nothing but brag and boast. It feels unnatural, and if you could peek into any woman writer’s inbox, you’d probably see agonized queries from her peers: “I just got a starred review from PW. Should I tweet it?” or, “I just got a rave in the Times. Is it going to look weird if I put it on my Instagram more than once? How much is too much? Are you sure this is okay?”
Self-promotion feels weird, and risky. And the struggle is real: speak up too loudly or too often about the disparities and we’ll be accused of making it all about ourselves, of being self-centered or self-absorbed, of perverting feminism in order to make it all about us. And what could sting worse, when women are still told that we don’t deserve attention and still taught to make it about everyone but ourselves? Insisting on the worth of our work, putting aside our innate selflessness and modesty, saying, This deserves your attention is still an invitation for mockery and scorn.
But I’d encourage my fellow women writers to get past that awkwardness and the fear of being shamed. Tweet that praise, sister. Nobody’s going to be as proud of your book as you are, with the possible exception of your mother, and, let’s be honest, she’s still a little steamed about the sex scenes. Or maybe that’s just me.
When I think about my writing, I think about my daughters. The world I want to leave my girls—all girls—is a world where their work will come to the starting line with the same weight and heft and import as work by men, where their voices will be heard and their stories will matter. To get there, I have to behave—we as women have to behave—like our stories matter.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll read my new novel, Mrs. Everything, a story about two sisters and the lives they lead—a story about where women have been, how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go. And if you like it, please head over to your favorite review site and go write a thing.
Jennifer Weiner, the bestselling author of 16 books, kicks off her 18-city tour for Mrs. Everything in Princeton, N.J., on June 11.