Writing as deliberation

23 Mar

Providing a shared context for constructing meaning, documents are the beginning rather than the end of the process of negotiation. Understanding this, Huizinga was particularly critical of the teaching of writing in the States. Writing, he worried, was presented to students as the outcome of deliberation. Whereas, Huizinga maintained, it was really just another part of the deliberative process.

– page 10, The Social Life of Documents, J.S. Brown and P. Duguid. Emphasis mine.

Writing is definitely how I work out the majority of my thoughts (that and lying awake for hours at night). I write. I write the same post over and over again, until I discard it or edit a 5-page document down to 5 paragraphs.

Sometimes the entire thing is the conclusion I reached from spending hours on it, sometimes I start off with my original quandary at the beginning and meander through my thought process to my conclusion. Sometimes I just have to spit things out and go back to them later to figure out what they were. Sometimes I’m soliciting opinions on my problems, and sometimes I’m just trying to update people on how I’m doing.

This works fairly well for me. For various reasons I’m very uncomfortable discussing deep emotional issues with people in person — it’s much easier for me to write them out behind the barrier of a computer screen. Even if I never post my thoughts, I’m still more content after I write, because the process has gotten me to an endpoint or at least a midpoint: less confused, more settled.

While attempting to contribute to public conversation, though, this works against me. I get convinced that I have to keep editing, because I’m convinced only a perfect product is worthy of a post. I’m never satisfied, and a post never goes up, or a comment takes days to write, or a comment never goes up at all.

In formats like WordPress, there aren’t centralized forums where individuals can get to know other individuals. That’s the format I’m used to. In the blogosphere, off of places like Dreamwidth and LiveJournal, it’s not nearly as easy to figure out how to get to know people. It also takes longer to establish yourself: people who read your blog aren’t coming there from a position of having known you for six months in community X.

I am trying to get better. Trying to leave more comments, trying to at least save blog post ideas even if I’m convinced there is no way I will ever get them ready for publication. Because I know in the asexual blog world (and I guess the neutrois blog world too), there just aren’t that many people, and I can’t let my anxieties eat my words. I started this blog because I felt obligated to contribute to asexual media. I can’t do that if I’m too afraid to let my writing show that it’s a “deliberative process” — if I’m trying to show it only “as the outcome of deliberation”.

Promise I’ll try to at least fix the typos, though.


15 Responses to “Writing as deliberation”

  1. maddox March 24, 2011 at 12:54 AM #

    I have the perfect response post for this just waiting in my drafts folder. I’ve just been too busy posting other stuff; ironically that post explains why.

    • ace eccentric March 24, 2011 at 1:20 AM #

      Well, now I am very curious. But I guess I am going to have to wait and be patient.

  2. Sciatrix March 24, 2011 at 10:26 PM #

    Ah. Would it make you feel better to know that I have this problem, too? It’s one of the reasons I just don’t comment as much as I should, even though I feel really guilty about that.

    To be honest, the only reason I post as often as I do is that I have a mental deadline to meet: I tell myself I have to post one thing per week, even if I hate its quality. It seems to be working okay, but it can be pretty exhausting to hold to–which leaves me with less mental energy for comments elsewhere.

    • ace eccentric March 25, 2011 at 12:33 AM #

      It would! I do try to comment, too. But sometimes I edit a comment so much I stop seeing any value/clarity in what I’m attempting to say.

      Once a week is what I’ve been trying for, too, but I haven’t been posting for so long so it hasn’t been so difficult yet. It’s interesting that you have the rule to post even if you aren’t satisfied with it. Something like that might help me out.

      • Sciatrix March 25, 2011 at 5:33 PM #

        I often feel like I wouldn’t post anything without it, because I’m never quite satisfied with my writing. Feeling like something is “due” also means that in my head I’m kicking around ideas more often.

        (I also brainstorm potential ideas to write about in case I feel like I don’t have anything to say–I can ramble on about most topics if I have a prompt, and I can distill ramblings into a half-decent post, so running up a bunch of prompts I can work off of every week helps me keep writing.)

        • ace eccentric March 25, 2011 at 9:41 PM #

          Makes sense. If I didn’t have to post things in class I’d never contribute there either, thinking it wasn’t good enough (I’m in an online program). And I know when it gets further into the week I suddenly think of more ideas in an effort to get something up.

          (Mmm, that’s a good idea! Thank you for the advice, it definitely helps.)

  3. maddox March 25, 2011 at 3:27 PM #

    It’s not about the quality of the comment, it’s just having the validation that someone other than you and the gf read it and said, ‘oh, yeah, that sounds coherent/good/interesting. good point’ Even if you quote back what someone said and say “yes, me too” that’s often good enough.

    As for keeping up the blog, this is the very first time I’ve been able to keep up writing anything for more than 2 weeks. And I have so much momentum it would be impossible to stop. Don’t feel obligated to write if you have nothing to say, but chances are you do. I have waaaay too much to say, although mostly to myself, but I’ve learned it’s healthier to get it out of my head. My gf says I’m much more relaxed and fall asleep faster since I’ve been writing. And surprisingly getting it into other people’s heads is turning out better than I expected.

    • ace eccentric March 25, 2011 at 11:08 PM #

      True, I know that feeling. I think sometimes there’s a pressure to impress people, as well, when you’re commenting, which maybe sometimes stalls me out.

      I’ve kept personal blogs before, but nothing to this scale or so public. It’s good that you have momentum! I think there’s something in writing things down that’s just good for the mind. Seeing your thoughts existing outside of yourself can help you think clearer or less frenzied.

  4. Siggy March 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM #

    I very much agree. In fact, sometimes I change my mind in the middle of writing. I often start with some point I want to make, and sometimes in writing out the details I decide my point was wrong after all.

    I don’t have much advice to avoid perfectionism, because I feel that giving essays just the right amount of work is something that became natural over time. It helps to have multiple essays in progress at once. It also helps to remember that usually you’re not writing grand manifestos on broad themes which will continue to be read for all time.

    • ace eccentric March 27, 2011 at 5:00 PM #

      I do that too. Which is fun when it happens on page 8 of a 10 page paper! I have actually continued arguing essays I’ve stopped believing in before to avoid having to restart.

      I usually start up another post’s draft when I want to run away from a current one, yeah. I think a lot of the impulse to edit is also that I’m generally not a confident person when it comes to speaking my mind, and have difficulty sharing my opinions. Most of the time I’m easily able to convince myself that my opinions aren’t valid.

      • maddox March 28, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

        When I used to write essays, and realize on page 8 that my conclusion had significantly strayed from my initial introduction, I just went back and changed the beginning.

        Hey, if the head doesn’t match the body, sometimes it’s just easiest to change the head (ironically)!

        • ace eccentric March 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM #

          Heh, I’ve done that before too. One of my TAs told us once that she never wrote her intro paragraph until she was done, because half the time she had no idea what conclusion she would end up drawing at the end of the paper.

          I actually laughed out loud at that. /dork


  1. Sunday Linkspam « Writing From Factor X - March 27, 2011

    […] An Asexual Space: Writing as Deliberation While attempting to contribute to public conversation, though, this works against me. I get […]

  2. I Don’t Spellcheck « Neutrois Nonsense - March 30, 2011

    […] (PS: this had been sitting in my drafts for a while, ironically, but the posting of it was finally prompted by ace eccentric’s enticing deliberation) […]

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