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By using the tag Popular songs I am able to trace the development of my short and unsuccessful songwriting efforts. I started in September &...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't be Afraid of Doing Things Really Well

We all hear of the dangers of perfectionism. You are just supposed to get your stuff out. There is a problem, though, with never having the feeling of having done something really well, of having gotten a piece of writing to the point where it hums along flawlessly. If you haven't done that at least once, then you won't know what if feels like and won't be able to reproduce that feeling again. I admit there have been times when I felt less fussy about style, but the times when I paid more attention to writing (most of the time) made me a better writer and carried me through those other periods. What I consider my badly written pieces are still better than a lot of yours are. There is no such thing as writing too well. I cringe when I find a bad sentence I have written in a published book review or article.

Some people's writing seems overly fussy. That probably is a good thing, for that sort of person. As a reader you understand the ethos of care for writing that went into that sort of style, and the results are unlikely to be bad. I would rather be eloquent but looser, taking a few risks, but, once again, that's a personal preference, an expression of my particular ethos of style. I could even go back and make sure I have at least one swear word, one preposition at the end of a sentence, and one sentence fragment in something I wrote. I'd rather use and interesting word when I want to, at the expense of smoothness. The blog lets me write in a fun way, with some eloquence, I hope, but with less fussiness.

6 comments:

profacero said...

Standard advice is to rush, get it out, let editors worry about your prose and readers about the possible thinness of research. If it is really bad they will tell you what books to read for your revise and resubmit, so you will not have to think about it, and if it is only slightly bad then you are creating a nice opportunity for someone else to write the next article.

This advice makes me so angry I cannot even think. However, it now occurs to me that it is the same attitude as lazy students have -- let the professor fix it. We decry this in undergraduates. And yet, this is what senior faculty tell junior faculty and junior faculty tell graduate students, it is sickening.

Jonathan said...

When we graduate we realize the field is less rigorous than our own professors, and that we are responsible for the quality of our own work. We can still get work of lesser quality published, as there are journals that aren't that rigorous.

profacero said...

In my experience, though, it is *before* graduating that one has more of that kind of freedom, including the freedom to work at a high level. We were responsible for the quality of our own work initially, but after graduating we were no longer trusted. We had to account for every step to authories who did not have our best interests at heart, but who must be obeyed for the sake of survival in the short to medium term. So I would say it is graduating that the (highly dstructive and inappropriate) advice I cite kicks in in earnest.

Jonathan said...

My experience is different. Even in a department hostile to me I was always in charge of my own research agenda. I didn't see how bad my field was till I was out on my own. Graduate school spoiled me, in that sense.

profacero said...

Yes, but this is the reason to work for a confident institution / with confident colleagues (even if hostile or non friendly).

Haven't Peninsular studies improved massively lately? This is how it seems to me.

Jonathan said...

I think it has improved. There are good people concentrated in certain subfields, like film. 19th century narrative has been strong for a while.