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why I think even the most execrable "blogs" are a good idea - Terrafactive Armageddon

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March 12th, 2005


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09:47 am - why I think even the most execrable "blogs" are a good idea
Mike at the Corpuscle pretty much lays it out as I would: the more you write, the better you get at writing. Even if all you are writing is "oh woe, my love life sucks, I hate my job, my cat just had kittens" banal day-to-day stuff, odds are your writing skills will improve.

He focuses on getting past the "bullshit the teacher" phase, into the "thinking on paper" phase, and he's talking about an academic setting, but the core truth is the same. The practice leads to improvement.

Also, learning to think on paper involves learning to think, at least to some degree. That is definitely something that needs to be encouraged. And doing - creating, participating, making something are things I would encourage, too.

Ok, the person I stole this soap-box from can go back to doing their laundry now.

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[User Picture]
From:sculpin
Date:March 13th, 2005 12:24 am (UTC)
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Practice does lead to improvement, but I think the other part of his practice is important, too -- the part of it where he says, "Okay, folks, no more bullshit." And the folks listen.

This being my month to think about people who push my buttons, I dropped in on the livejournal of somebody -- call her 'A' -- who disappointed and infuriated me almost two years ago. She's writing, all right, but she's still pulling the same old crap and shows no signs of stopping. People keep on calling her on it, and she keeps on screaming her fool head off at them and calling them names.

The deal is this: A doesn't bother with a reasonable argument when she can substitute a passionate statement of hatred. I'm honestly not sure she'd know an argument if it bit her. It can make for some explosive writing, but I think there's only so far anyone can coast on that stuff.

And then -- and this is a little more subtle -- there's B, who writes things that look like attempts at humorous first-person vignettes, but which are in fact fairly nasty toward everybody else in the vignettes. She works in the "aggrieved hero in a world of vacuous cow-people" subgenre of creative nonfiction. This is amusing from time to time, but after a while the effect is a little stomach-turning. There's only so far anyone can coast on that stuff, too.

So, yes, I think some writers do have tendencies that stunt their art, and those tendencies can get reinforced by practice. (Does every art have its bad habits? Cello playing certainly does.) A and B are both getting a rise out of their bad habits. I've thought that A could be a pretty fair writer if she could turn on her brain for an hour or two, but how's that going to happen?
[User Picture]
From:cithra
Date:March 13th, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC)
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You have good points, and it occurs to me that one other important difference (which actually may just be another facet of the one you mention) is the students, in addition to being told "no bullshit" weren't getting positive feedback for producing bullshit if they ignored his admonition. LJ, alas, doesn't have any filter on the feedback, so if all you want is a reaction...

Maybe I should add that if what you practice your craft on is mostly self-indulgent whining, I don't need to see it. I say this as someone whose writing practice for years was self-indulgent whining; but it's all off line, and I never made anyone read it. (Heavens forfend, actually quite the opposite.)

I think you gain something in terms of neural mechanics simply from putting sentences together, even if they are puerile. Sort of like singing warm-up scales. Useful, but NOT something anyone besides the performer benefits from... ergo, the polite performer saves that sort of thing for private, and instead shares work that is mutually pleasurable.

I suppose too, that even though what excited me about stumbling on the LJ community was finding People Who Write - who like to write, who write regularly, who CAN write - that may not actually be what draws the majority of people here. Particularly as the site has evolved and broadened its membership base from the early invite-only model. hrmph.
[User Picture]
From:sculpin
Date:March 14th, 2005 04:28 am (UTC)
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Maybe writing is like cooking. Generally people get better at cooking by cooking. You get the hang of the tempo, the tour de main, and by the time you're 60 you're making one hell of a good coffee cake.

But then there is the occasional anti-genius who just keeps on churning out dishes such as "cream of wheat with garlic pucks".
[User Picture]
From:sculpin
Date:March 21st, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)
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LJ, alas, doesn't have any filter on the feedback, so if all you want is a reaction...

Alas, I think it's even worse than that. There's the politeness filter; so often, those whose prejudices have been validated by the bullshit respond with brief gooey praise and everybody else keeps silent. That's something I've occasionally been concerned about on my own writers filter; how much bullshit could I write and still be complimented? Eek!

I've had cause to think about this sort of thing this afternoon as I whack on the last shreds of friendship with someone to whom I used to feel fairly close. I'd be wiser to just not bother. But for crying out loud, I want to say, LJ is not a Get Out Of Brain Free card. I am so impatient with that shit.

Two competing ways to explore the truth of a proposition:
  1. Define your terms, consider the likely consequences of your hypothesis, and check to see if those consequences are true. If they are, consider other reasons why they might be true; if not, consider why.

  2. Post some woolly-worded gargling on LJ and let the soothing praise and agreement roll in, convincing you that you are wise indeed.

God, Joy, I am well on my way to becoming some batty old lady who goes around poking people with a stick and yelling, "Think! Think!" If I thought it'd work, I probably would.

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