This weekend, I edited an essay that Jonah was working on for his fourth grade class. It started off, "There have been many technological advances in recent years: airplanes, computers, rockets, cars, and tennis balls." Yes, he thought that the invention of little, yellow bouncy things was up there with travel to the moon as a pivotal advance in the human existence. I decided to not red pencil the tennis balls, because, after some thought, I decided that tennis balls were pretty cool things.
Alas, editing is much easier than writing. I was looking over Jonah's essay rather than writing my own essay. I've been writing a five page, quickie paper on a topic that I know backwards and forwards. I should have been able to pump that thing out in a couple of hours, but it has been really plaguing me for the past couple of weeks. I write a couple of sentences here and a couple there, but haven't spit the whole thing out at once.
Part of the problem is that five pages is too short for all the ideas I have. Also, it follows a different format that I'm used to. I also worry that the blog has interfered with my writing style.
I write every day on a whole variety of topics. You would think that the daily routine of writing would be good for me. It would carry over to essays, book reviews, and research papers. Yes and no.
After five years of blog writing, I can write quickly, especially when there's no pressure. I can throw down an opinion and walk away. But I've also gotten more impatient about looking for citations and evidence, about proofreading my work, and doing the hard work of editing, editing, editing that is really need to make a sentence beautiful. There's such pressure to hit that publish button that I spit out words too quickly and never take the time to rewrite.
A recent article in Atlantic Monthly speculated that google was making us stupid, by chopping up our thinking. I often wonder if blogs are making me smarter or dumber. In some ways, smarter. I certainly have developed an expertise in certain topics through our debates and the process of finding material. But I can also see an impact on my writing.
And so, I really need to tie together this post and add a good conclusion, but I'll do what I do so often with the blog. I'm going to hit the publish button, because I need to write another post, before Ian's bus shows up.