Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I want to expand a little on something I said in my previous post;

Now, I don't mean to imply that pieces carefully constructed over a long period of time are without value. But these pieces are valuable in a very different way; their value is determined almost entirely by how willing the writer is to expose their own vulnerabilities. Very few people are willing to do this, and I think pointing the knife at one's own tender spots is one of the things that make a good artist.

On the one hand, I'd say obviously a piece of writing like a technical manual or an encyclopaedia-like couple paragraphs of information can be valuable without the author pointing a knife at him or herself. On the other hand, it takes a certain amount of courage to talk as though you know something other people don't know in a forum where there's a potential for other people to correct you*.

This sort of courage isn't rare--I'm friends with plenty of people who are at least that brave. But it is a form of courage.

The knife I'm describing isn't simply self-deprecation, either, which I would describe as being almost the opposite of said knife, since in an attempt to put oneself down one can exaggerate with choice of language. Forcing people to confirm what you want them to believe about you, even if it's something bad, is not the kind of risk I'm talking about. It's the evasion of the risk I'm talking about, because it consists of casting yourself in a powerless role where you would never have to be in a position to bare yourself without knowing the outcome. The knife I'm talking about is about being naked, I guess, and now I'm hearing Yoko Ono in my head from "Revolution Number 9" saying, "If you become naked . . ." and Allen Ginsberg saying, "America, when will you take off your clothes?"

*And people who declare things in forums where polite disagreement is prohibited, or where others have been made to feel they oughtn't express dissent, aren't exactly brave.

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