Friday, December 5, 2008

When Stories Erupt

This week's normblog profile features one of my favorites, Hilzoy, of Obsidian Wings fame. I enjoyed her profile, but I have a small quibble -- and what's blogging if not a means of throwing small quibbles before a potential worldwide audience? One of Hilzoy's answers:

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Blogging, like any form of writing for an audience, comes with responsibilities. Always, always check your sources. There is too much misinformation out there without us adding to it. Also, when some story erupts, ask yourself how much you really know about what happened, and whether there might be another side to it. Never get ahead of what you know.
That's good advice, advice I could follow more closely myself. But then there's this Q&A just a short distance down the page:
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I'm quite happy with Barack Obama.
Is that a case of getting ahead of the facts, or am I hatching too fine a quibble? As of this writing, there is still more than a month before Barack Obama takes office, so he has yet to show that he can be a president about whom one can be "quite happy." I hope and expect he will do so, but it remains to be seen.

Sigh. Sometimes I can be a real shit.

On another reading, maybe I am the one violating Hilzoy's principle. Maybe I am discounting the nature of Norm's question by asking Hilzoy to give a non-hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question. Maybe I've gone off half-cocked with this business about the gap between hope and achievement in the presidency of Barack Obama; maybe I've mistaken the spirit of the question.

I should probably think more carefully before I write. The trouble is, I tend to think by writing. And I can be a shit.


Aimée said...

“I should probably think more carefully before I write. The trouble is, I tend to think by writing. And I can be a shit” – I think many of us fall into this category, so you are definitely not alone.

I think Hilzoy has some good points. I know as a reader I get frustrated with the amount of misinformation or quasi-information presented on the net and in conversation with people– but no one has ever told me I have to read or listen to them. I also have thinking faculties that help me weigh the information I receive.

A substantial share of my opinions and decisions are formulated through conversations and writing; I know I’ve made some careless comments and stupid statements, but I’m not sure if simply admitting that I have atones for my communication-transgressions?

Dale said...

Aimee, good question. I think Andrew Sullivan sets a good example for this in the world of blogging -- when he gets something wrong, he owns up to it and sets the record straight. Where he's made a judgment call that others don't accept, he doesn't necessarily change his mind but he posts the best responses right there in his blog.

If I ever get something wrong, that's what I'll do. ;-)

I try to add "corrections" or "updates" to posts I've found to be wrong, off-base, misstated, whatever. In some cases I find it worthwhile to write a whole new post. I hope I never fall to the temptation of trying to delete a post in hopes I can somehow hide a dumb thing I said.

I think that's about the best we can do. I accept that my mind will change over time, and that I'll look back on what I wrote and find at least some of it cringe-worthy for one reason or another.

I consider blogging to be conversational more than as something that aims at finished, polished writing and thinking. I really do work things out as I'm writing them, for good or bad. Where I end up may or may not resemble the plan with which I began. It's a creative exercise as much as an analytical one.

I have many times written an entire lengthy post only to find I've completely changed my mind about the topic in the course of writing. In other cases I have drafts that are 'stuck' because I'm still not sure how to finish the idea.

So it goes.