Monday, September 29, 2008

No Apologies for Writing

When I told my friend Eve about my blog, I broke a rule that I generally propound in terms of presenting work: don't apologize. So writing my previous entry about Eve brought this to mind.

Speaking for myself, it's one thing to write for an anonymous world, and something different to write for someone I know. And something different to show work to a friend than to a professor or other person in a professional context.

But it's neither necessary nor appropriate to apologize for writing (presuming, of course, it's not writing of a nature that could be considered offensive--racist, perhaps).

Presumably you have done what you could do in the time you had, with the resources available to you. That is nothing to apologize for. And if you've been wasting time, out playing, why apologize for that. Or at least why apologize to someone else for that? It's your choice of what to do with your life.

I find in presenting my writing and in the writing itself, I have a tendency to apologize for my positions or to apologize for the quality or character. It is a tendency that I try to eliminate from my writing, because I don't think it helps make it better.

If we expect criticism, or if we are good at criticizing ourselves, then we look at our work and see the imperfections and the problems. But that is not how others are looking at the work.

Take me, for example. I'm good at finding problems--that's part of what makes me an effective editor. But my aim in reading is not to find problems. Yes, when I'm reading as an editor, I am looking for problems, but when I'm looking at a piece of work just to get an idea of what it is, as I do when making an estimate, I'm looking to see what the work has to offer--to see its strengths, its value and significance.

Of course people present their work to me with apologies all the time--which is a little silly because my role is to help clean up your work--but I think it's natural to have some apprehension that our work will not be treated lovingly. And if we are closely associating ourselves with our work, then that can be painful.

The worst thing about apologizing for work that we've done--whatever faults we might that the work has--is that apologizing sets the reader looking for the problems. And why would we want to do that? There may be a time and place to inform your reader of flaws in your document (especially when working on a dissertation), but even such indication of flaws should not be presented as a problem to apologize for, but as a part of the "to do" list.

If we can learn to let the work speak for itself, our luck, I think, will be better.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

just keep in mind the idea of treating a work lovingly when you help me move my latest draft along. I need to be working on another chapter and I felt that by keeping the first with me I was using it as a crutch not to continue writing and pushing the ideas. Lovingly remind me to move and make progress on the other material too.