I have an article up over at Christianity Today on the pressure of push-button publishing and the trap of self-disclosure: A few weeks ago, the writer Glennon Doyle Melton announced on her blog that she’s getting divorced while in the same breath saying that Love Warrior, a book on life and marriage, is still forthcoming. It was a post not unlike most of Melton’s writing: raw, emotive, quaking with transparency and defensiveness at the same time. While she has a questionable view of orthodox Christianity, her words seem to be carried like torches along the hallways and byways of the “wounded warriors” who read her.
I have never been a particular fan of Melton’s writing, but I bear no ill toward her. Marriage is hard, and I am married to a man who walked through the pain of a spouse’s infidelity and the crucible of divorce. Despite our best intentions, sin crouches at our doorstep, and it takes a determined will and the grace of God to rule over it. That someone can write a book on marriage in the same year they announce their divorce is not a sin as much as it is a reflection of questionable discernment. Although Love Warrior may have beautiful words and compelling stories, Melton is an example of a writer who has succumbed to the pressure to prematurely make public what perhaps ought to be kept private.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, is another example (and I should note that Gilbert and Melton are close friends). Last summer, Gilbert announced her divorce from her husband and then recently revealed yet another self-discovery story—that she’s in love with a woman (the real reason for the divorce). However, I’m less interested in the personal dramas of Gilbert or Melton and more concerned with the larger trend they represent: the altar of personal narrative at which both readers and publishers worship. Writers, too, are complicit in the problem. It’s one thing to go through personal pain and quite another to turn pain into a story for mass consumption that’s put forth to thousands of women as a tacit “live by” script.
Gilbert and Melton aren’t alone, of course. Many of us give in to the pressure to make public what God is still doing in private. We have become blinded in the instant gratification of push-button publishing and platform making. Publishers eat it up. Readers often scan and share or “like” without processing deeply. Writers feel constant pressure to perform and produce the next hot thing. We’re all gluttons for information, content, formulas, and beauty—none of which are wrong in and of themselves, but we’ve all grown fat on a feast of viral blogs, short-lived best-sellers, and pithy articles. There is a demand, and so we supply.