Friday, May 30, 2014


When I say that scholars should enjoy writing I don't mean that it should be a source of pleasure every time. Our capacity for pleasure, after all, is no doubt related to our capacity for pain. Indeed, it may be one capacity: our "sensitivity". Many people who normally, or at least occasionally, find writing to be a pleasurable experience, also know that it can, at times, be a painful one. We are sometimes in the wrong mood, or must struggle to recall our knowledge. Sometimes, for whatever reason, our writing faculties are just not working. We feel stiff and sore in our prose. The results of such writing, however, do not always deserve to be discarded. Sometimes what was painful to write is a joy to read, just as something that may have been very enjoyable to write can offer surprisingly painful reading.

As in the case of physical activity, pain is a useful indicator, but it does not always mean you should stop doing what you are doing. There is good pain and bad pain. I wish I could say something more useful this morning about how to distinguish between them. Just remember that writing should have a certain degree of precision. Too much pleasure or too much pain is not conducive to this aim.

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