Monday, January 27, 2014


I have commented before about the expected length of the short essays I tend to write in this webspace.  In doing so, I noted that I want to try to increase the length of my daily pieces; it is much like increasing the intensity of a workout regiment (with which I have admittedly far less experience than I ought).  Indeed, as I have noted, these pieces are exercise for me as I try to work on The Work and on getting others to make their own forays into it.  They are helpful in that, since obliging myself to sit down and hammer out several hundred words (hopefully of lucid prose, but I chose my title for a reason) puts me in mind to attend carefully to language early in the day, and what I do requires me to attend carefully to language throughout the day.

The average word count for my essays--if my prose pieces can be called essays, although if they cannot, I do not know what other word I would use--has been increasing; I had been hovering right around 500, and I am now up to 530 or thereabouts (depending, of course, on the spans over which word counts are reckoned).  It is not as much as I would want it to be, of course.  Many entertain the fantasy that they can suddenly leap across levels of performance, turning their hands to things once and finding within them excellence in doing so.  It is a failing I share with them, and it is worse for me to share it than most, for I am well aware that learning is progressive and incremental.  Learning how to be a teacher taught me that much, at least.

The slow shift allows me to build up my ability to expand upon ideas from my own head and understanding, something I have referenced as being desirable.  Yet even in so relatively brief an essay as this, I have already made several references to other sources.  Although they are my own words, so that I am in some ways continuing a conversation I have long since begun, the references do suggest difficulty in coming up with new ideas independently.  It occurs to me also that the difficulty in sustaining ideas independently increases with the length over which they are to be extended--which makes sense, really, such that I ought not to count it any particularly telling revelation to have had it occur to me.

The danger in such ideas is that they will be taken as excuses to not flesh out what needs to be fleshed out.  Illustrative examples, which account for most of the citations I had been bemoaning in my work on the more formal essay a few days back, are necessary.  Most people require being shown how reasoning works, and reasoning must incorporate present evidence to be effective.  Pulling in the understandings of others who have worked on similar projects before also makes the reasoning more evident and therefore more effective, and it requires the outside citation.  The same is true for those whose works are pulled in because they offer countervailing perspectives.  Arguments often push off from the statements of others, and pushing off requires something against which to push.

More important by far, though, is explaining how what is brought in leads to or supports the ideas it is claimed to support.  I worry that I do not do enough to explain such things, or that my selection of evidence means my work of explaining them is needless.  In neither case can I claim to be making as much of a contribution as I would like to make or as I had thought I was making.  In neither case am I satisfied with my performance therefore.  So I must continue to practice, in this webspace and elsewhere, hoping thereby to come to be able to write at length in clear prose that does far more to interpret the evidence the world provides than to repeat it.  And I can hope that others will continue to read it and profit thereby.

No comments:

Post a Comment