Saturday, September 21, 2019

Irritating Aristocrats via the Provocation to Think

Readers are unhappy when I write at length. It seems like I'm indulgently running my mouth. Blah blah blah.

Yet readers also dislike dense writing. If their food isn't cut up for them, pre-masticated, and spit down their gullets, it all feels opaquely impenetrable.

The two complaints are in flat contradiction, of course (unpacking dense writing requires ample space), which has bugged me, but I finally realized I'd been overthinking it (speaking of which, have you noticed that I changed the Slog's tagline, above, a few months ago?). I learned long ago to pay little attention to people's explanations for why they do things. Stated self-explanations are usually just retroactive self-justification.

So what's being justified here? Readers don't want to make an effort, period. Lengthy writing requires effort. Succinctly dense writing requires effort. From my standpoint, I'm damned either way, but, from their standpoint, they're just not super into the whole thinking/learning thing, which makes my stuff seem exasperating.
The third way for a reader to justify disinterest in making an effort is to label anything profound, mind-bending, and/or assumption-challenging "philosophy", per the introduction here. "I'm not interested in philosophy" is a euphemism for "Don't expect me to show interest in anything beyond slickly predigested snarky tidbits."
There are two strands: 1. lazy unwillingness to input, process, and think; and 2. aversion to anything that might challenge assumptions or change minds. Re: the latter, we've reached the endgame of confirmation bias. People can only tolerate wee semantic nuggets aligning with foregone conclusions. They don't wish to to consider anything baked fresh, especially when it conflicts with prior assumptions, which feel inviolable.

It helps to bear closely in mind that everyone in the First World at this point functions as a Mrs. Howell-ish aristocrat. That's what makes our assumptions and opinions feel sacrosanct. Those things are the very foundation of me, and I am very, very special.

I'm friends with a lot of Guatemalan and Ecuadoran immigrants. They're extremely sensible and level-headed - they know how to actually get stuff done and get out of their own damned way - and not one of them displays this absurd and unearned confidence in their every assumption, conclusion, and intuition. They're not special radiating beings. They don't imagine they fart pixie dust. They're more like sincere, committed worker ants. I, too, am a worker ant, and I vehemently believe (as any sincere, committed worker ant would, I suppose) that that's the best approach and that everyone else has utterly Lost Perspective.

Obligatory reality check: Of course, it might be that my writing isn’t worth the effort. Don’t imagine for a second that I fail to seriously entertain the possibility, and use it to coax myself to do my very best. At this point, I am, for the first time in my life, mildly satisfied with the work I’m doing. And while that’s likely as high as my self-assessment can go, I remain open to the possibility that it still isn’t worth readers’ effort. Maybe I can do better!

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Of course your writing is worthwhile. I check twice a day for fresh bread err posts. I am a member of a food group that is a spin off from chowhound. I also don't have a smart phone. So if I post a pic it takes quite a bit of doing with my flip camera and this happens very rarely. I get a lot of why don't you post pics even after I have explained myself. One person gets me. I wrote an essay about my trip to Frankenfield last summer and how this little black cat was in charge of the farm stand. One person responded that I had painted a wonderful picture with words. She is the only one in the group who gets me and she is in England. We have a lot of drive thru posters who only write a quick blurb and never bother to read what others are making for dinner. This one former hound really does have a host of issues which she posts about daily and at length. Recently I wrote a thoughtful response about children starting school for the first time and how the child and the family get measured and judged. She ignored it. I poked her and asked her to read it. Nothing. I did have to give up on this person. She wants to talk not listen. I think I like reading better than writing. Specially your slog.

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