Thursday, October 18, 2007

On being wrong

Sorry for not having written in awhile. I've just been swamped, really swamped. So in lieu of something more substantial, let me share with you a revelation I had as I was struggling to revise an essay I first drafted many moons ago: it was so much easier to write the piece when it was wrong.

As it happens, the revelation I just had about my own work reminds me of a pearl of fortune cookie wisdom I received after dining at a local Chinese restaurant here in Bloomington. It reads: "It is harder to ask the right questions than to find answers to the wrong questions."

Indeed. And isn't that an almost a perfect description of the work cultural studies is supposed to do? It sort of reminds me of something my mentor and friend Larry Grossberg once said. To paraphrase roughly, if it seems too easy, you're probably not doing cultural studies.


Gil said...

Wait a sec.

You were wrong??!?

Ted Striphas said... kidding. It does happen once in awhile. I think the last time was 1978, when I thought Evel Knievel was spelled "E-V-I-L."

Bob said...

Hmm -- I find it the other way around, Ted: initial stabs at a draft are really frustrating for me, because I can tell how awkwardly "off" the words on paper are, compared to the resplendent vision of the project in my mind. (It's also why I write very slowly at first -- I almost can't bring myself to watch the fumbling first steps.) Everything improves with later drafts: they tend to go quickly and with increasing confidence, like sliding into home base. (That's when, of course, I can bring myself to do the necessary revisions -- for me, a separate issue of laziness.)

Ted Striphas said...

Hi Bob,

You raise a good point. Like you, I often find writing first drafts to be an arduous process. But because the project I'm now working on didn't start out that way, I should have been suspicious about my thinking from the get-go.