Hello friends. For much too long now I’ve been trying to finish an article to share with you. I’ve been going over and over again through the process of creating a new post, beginning to write something, saving as draft, leaving it alone for days (or weeks), returning to it to continue writing, leaving it as a draft again, only to eventually delete it. If I don’t succeed in finishing one and pressing “publish,” it will have been a horrendous waste of time and effort. So, I really have to finish one. (In fact, a great part of the purpose of this article is to make it easier for me to get to the point of pressing “publish” on a “real” article.)
Before any of these protracted and ultimately unsuccessful attempts, I spoke with Matthew about the blog in Phoenix while Marysia and I were visiting. He suggested that I write about the graduate school application process, or that I write a much shorter and somewhat casual version of the essay I used as a writing sample for my applications. Both of these seemed like perfectly good ideas. But when it came to making either of them happen, I was quickly stumped. The idea of writing about the application process seemed to require too much effort, and it was unclear to me what the payoff would be (especially for you all, the potential readers). Who really wants to hear about what it was like for me throughout the process of applying to grad schools anyway? And what kind of article could I write about this process? A reflection? A how-to article? A (more or less) comprehensive story? None of these seemed right to me.
I didn’t think any of you would find my own experience during the process to be surprising in any way–it was just what you’d think it would be: increasingly nerve-wracking and stressful, but also exciting (and sometimes satisfying). I suppose there are some observations on the whole experience that I do (and imagine others might) find interesting, mainly along the lines of what it’s like spending every waking hour aware of and thinking about strange people in distant social circles, and how you will seem to them from the contents of your application, or of the many strange people who were competing against my application. I suppose I could have written a reflective article about that, but, in all likelihood that would have only resulted in a long-winded ramble giving voice to my anxieties (something that seems much more appropriate for a phone call than a blog-post). I certainly didn’t want to write anything like a “how-to” article. And, although a more or less comprehensive story sounds like the best way to write about the experience, that seemed like more than I could hope to pull off. I guess that’s just to say that I don’t have much of a knack for storytelling–or, what I would prefer to believe, but don’t really, is that I just didn’t have it in me then to draw my past few months of working on applications into a story worth telling.
Next, I started trying to follow Matthew’s other suggestion. I tried to write something like a blog-appropriate précis or abstract of my writing sample. This project seemed much more feasible than the last one. But although I managed to get many more words on the page this time, it didn’t really work out any better than the last attempt. By this time, I had read other posts on this site, and I really liked that the authors had succeeded in writing blog-appropriate pieces bearing their own voices–specifically the voices that they would have spoken in when talking playfully (but not necessarily “not seriously”) with friends. But I couldn’t find a way to write about my writing sample in such a way; my writing still sounded much too much like the original essay–still too academic.
“What the hell am I doing, writing about Kant to my friends in the form of a blog-post?”
“What am I hoping to get out of this–or, better yet, what am I hoping they will get out of this?”
“If they wanted to read about Kant and the Task of Meta-Critique, they could just read my writing sample!” (or essays by certain Kant scholars–to which, by the way, I would happily direct anyone who might be interested).
“Then they could read simply as persons interested in the topic of the essay, and the tone of the essay would be perfectly appropriate.”
“But here, they wouldn’t be reading the blog-post simply as persons interested in the topic that I’m writing about; they would be reading the post (also or only) as friends interested in hearing about my thoughts/interests/concerns with the topic of the writing sample.”
Whatever I might be writing about, I want to be writing to and for this readership, to you, not to/for some mass academic readership. I want to be writing to you all as friends, not just as fellow intellectuals.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to write to you about things that are “intellectually interesting.” I do want that. In fact, I’m more interested (at least right now) in doing that than writing to you about just about anything else. I just don’t want to write to you about intellectually interesting things as though you were only fellow intellectuals, with no regard to our being friends.
The kind of writing that would be satisfying for me is something that is beyond my current ability. It would be an exercise in a certain kind of art, one which I have never practiced, and one which, as my string of unsuccessful attempts attests, does not come easily to me.
How do I write about my interests in Kant (or philosophy more generally) in a casual, friend-blog-appropriate way? I haven’t been able to figure this one out, which is largely why I haven’t posted anything yet (there are other factors, of course, like laziness and social anxiety). Actually, it might be more or equally true to say that the main reason I haven’t posted anything yet is not so much because I haven’t been able to answer the above question, but because of my fear of sharing something with you all that is poorly and inappropriately written. Maybe after this post is posted I will be sufficiently less worried as to be able to share some of my thoughts about things other than my difficulty finishing a post. I’m hoping that you all will be more likely to forgive me for any transgressions of tone or style in my future posts, knowing that I am not trying to write that way, nor that I am simply unconcerned with or oblivious to the way that I am writing, but only that I am failing to write the way that I would like to be writing.
This post was discovered by Matthew on 4/3/18 after having been written by Michael on 5/15/17. I thought he needed a little help.