Friday, June 12, 2015

Writing For Uh...Posterity

Yeah, that's it.

I don't expect my prose to be deathless (and I don't write poetry).  Nonetheless, I do have a certain eye to the future, for the avoidance of humiliation. I read a Slate article yesterday about the disinviting of the blogger Mencius Moldbug from speaking at a tech conference, because of his unorthodox political views. The writer was at pains to be disparaging about his beliefs, including  a sneer in the direction of Charles Murray and The Bell Curve, which he referred to as "science," quotation marks included.

Perhaps I only noticed it because I largely agree with Murray, yet I think I would never write anything like that.  If you condescend and put a word in quotation marks, you run the risk ten or twenty years later of being revealed as a complete ass. I don't get how writers are not more cautious.  Perhaps it is required if one writes for publications which have to compete for eyeballs right now, today.  And why I have never been invited to write for same.  The copy much be punchy, to use an older phrase.

There are some things written in the last years I might take back, but these would be largely to reslant instead of rescind.  I have overclaimed, but there is little I would retract entirely.  I have been rude or arrogant and now wish I had said things more kindly, but not often do I wish I had said other things. When I first came to work at the hospital, the descendants of Freud and Skinner still ruled, and those two originators were still greatly honored, even by those who believed their disciples had surpassed them.  In social work and family counseling, the Palo Alto Group held sway.

All are deservedly on the rubbish heap now, with only fragments and flavorings surviving. Even among those my age, there is a roll of the eyes and a wave of the hand when someone tries to use those categories.  As to my hobbies, in baseball statistics we are in our second revolution since I first started following them in the 1960's; Historical linguistics has had linear improvement in its bread-and-butter topics of languages in the last 4000 years, but archaeology and genetics have left it in shambles in discussions of earlier speech. They try to drive their horses-and-buggies not only on the freeway, but down the runway, insisting that only strict attention to oats and spokes will reliably get you to Chicago.  Why, those jets could go anywhere, and who would know? Genealogy, sound and lighting, libraries and reading for pleasure, - all quite different.


james said...

Some of my earlier efforts don't show it so much, but over time I've learned to try to make the writing precise, and that requirement tends to tone down some of the most egregious effects of fads. I suspect that also makes it less useful for inspiring people--slogan-summaries catch the ear better.

It also means that what I write isn't always exactly what came to mind at first. And that I can't knock off a post in 2 minutes.

Edith Hook said...

"Perhaps it is required if one writes for publications which have to compete for eyeballs right now, today."
I think the key word here is compete; the pressure is on to be drmatic, sometimes perverse, aka “sexy” or faux avant garde, even if events have to be manufactured, scripted, contrived. As the public gets inured to the latest allegation, the threshold to get attention rises. As in entertainment, the ramping up seems to be a self perpetuating cycle.
Or, I have met people who seem to have a deep need to chide and correct others. I don't know what it is, one upsmanship, perhaps?

Edith Hook said...

I have had to reverse myself on the economy because back in 2008, I was convinced that off shoring was the issue. Luckily, since I am more into ideas than personalities, I didn't disparage anyone.

I think my biggest writing problem is being too cryptic as though the reader ought to know to what aspect of the post or thread I am reacting.

Sam L. said...

The internet almost never forgets (why one should consider what one writes closely and long).

Luke Lea said...

I hope there is nothing out there I regret, though I occasionally skirt the edge. Try to be constructive always. BTW, my new book on Kindle: Might you review it?