How 20-Nothing’s Jesse Rosen Became a Top Blogger

It’s not every day that Time Magazine pays attention to a blogger–especially a blogger that speaks to young adults. So when Jesse Rosen’s blog “20 Nothings” showed up on the revered magazine’s “25 Best Bloggers” list, Rosen’s profile went through the roof.

Of course, that was no surprise to her loyal followers.  “20-Nothings” is choc-a-block with anecdotes, advice and ramblings on everything from decluttering your space to playing hard to getting with a crush (and why people should stop doing that, already).

Rosen says her blog is meant to “remind you that you’re not alone, you’re (probably) not crazy, and (chances are) you’re going to make it out of this alive.”

Though her article titles are often provocative (see “No Time to Write? Have an Affair!”) her posts are filled with what she’s learned from the challenges in the personal and professional lives of Millennials.

Rosen grew up in New Jersey and went to college in Boston before moving to New York. She was  secure in a nine-to-five job in the marketing industry, but wasn’t feeling fulfilled. So in 2007, she registered the domain “20-nothings.com” and started writing on the side.

But there was one major issue–she wasn’t getting paid to do this, even as the site attracted more and more loyal readers. Why did she keep blogging?

Photo: Avia Rosen
Photo: Avia Rosen

“I couldn’t not do it,” she told best-of-the-Internet-podcast Fortnight on the Internets. “Having this space to feel free and have this outlet, it’s the same way many people feel about a diary.  

“I wasn’t a full time writer so it was the only thing I had that made me feel like a writer. It was the only place I actually had a body of work. Even though nobody was paying me to do it, I had to keep going.”

Rosen engages in snark-free writing, which makes 20-nothings such an enjoyable place. She is candid, yet humble. Mostly, her blog is an island of earnestness among a sea of cynical and sarcastic voices.

“There are times when I feel the snark coming in but I say to myself, ‘Why am I so mad? Why so bitter?’ and I write about that instead. That’s more interesting. And it has been more comfortable and well received.”

Jessie Rosen
Photo: www.jessierosen.com

In the beginning, most articles were about dating, hook-up culture and her friends. But in time, she found herself covering a broader range of subjects:  the Iraq war, maintaining a work/life balance, the economy and the truth about working from home.

But one thing that does get her goat? The misperceptions people have about Millennials. “’Lazy and entitled. It’s what I hear most often. For people in my age range, we graduated without a lot of opportunities,” she says.

“So if you’re staying in your parents house and weighing a $28,000 a year salary at a job where you’d have to move to Manhattan, one of the most expensive cities in the nation, or perhaps working at a Starbucks or substitute teaching while you figure things out–you might stay home.  You might take that Starbucks job,” she says. “I don’t think that makes you lazy. It’s just a little bit of a different priority because of what the world had to offer us at that time.”

And she isn’t afraid to use her personal life in her writing. (Though she does say that if she wouldn’t feel comfortable shouting it out in a crowded theater, then she won’t put it on the Internet.)  Her most commented upon articles are ones that address what she is most self-conscious about: wanting to be a writer but not lose her job; moving to LA from New York; and feeling like an outsider as she tried to break into the television industry.

Readers identified. So Rosen decided to put her stories together and published “20-Nothings: Stories on Surviving the Most Significant, Least Important Decade of My Life”. With the book’s success she decided to try a completely different subject. Her recently released young adult novel, Dead Ringer, tells the creepy story of a girl entering a new high school only to discover she has a doppelganger–a girl who killed herself the previous year.

It might not be based on her life, but the protagonist’s challenges are similar to what Rosen has been blogging about since 2007: feeling like an outsider, navigating life’s transitions, and surviving (and celebrating) the adventures of being a Millennial.

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