A Heretical Post

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

I know it is heresy to say that, so I will repeat it throughout this post. I am really tired of hearing how much I should be suffering and how hard it should all be. I have just never had a hard time writing or  publishing, even though I have pieces I had to submit four times and one I still have not placed although I am sure it is more than good. I also do not think really successful people suffer — I think they enjoy their work.

I have had some illuminations. When I told people I did not like my first professor job, a common reaction was to believe I did not want to work for a living generally. People thought I was comparing working to the fantasy of staying home and being supported in style. Similarly, when I told people I did not like my first book contract, the general reaction was that I did not like to write. This is why they said my disagreement with the project itself was just an excuse. People were making gender based assumptions and I did not understand this.

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

When I was a small stela, it was assumed that women wanted to teach and not to conduct research. If not they were unnatural, which was problematic. That was why women should be lecturers and men, professors. Since this division was no longer entirely legal the only compromise whereby the natural order of things could be maintained was if women conducted research, but let men design their projects. They could then say they were grateful someone brighter had designed their project for them. They could make it clear that they were having a hard time executing it and were not enjoying it but were yet doing a very good job. Then they beamed amid good reviews and talked about how happy they were to be able to get back to the classroom.

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

The book I am reading now has one of those prefaces I dislike, that list all the funding, leave time, help, and culinary support the author had. Without all of this they could never have taken the first step toward formulating their book. This kind of preface makes sure we know the writer has an élite lifestyle, and intimates that writing is impossible without that. These prefaces thus perform a gatekeeping speech act: if you are not in my social stratum, you cannot write. But it is not true that one cannot write while also doing one’s own research and cooking, and it is not true that one cannot do one’s own editing.

I have said it before but I really prefer prefaces that only acknowledge the entities they legally must, and the people who did actual work on the manuscript. I also prefer dedications without long explanations. A marvelous quotation accompanying the dedication can be nice, but I also like the discreet dignity of very formulaic dedications. “To V., in loving memory.”

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

It appears that unlike many professors, I come from a long line of white collar professionals. I never thought I could not be one too, if indeed I prepared for it. What was difficult for me about becoming a professor, or becoming anything of interest, was escaping the expectation that I would not want to. Women should not want jobs. Only insufficient women have jobs. So unlike my colleagues who have escaped the oilfields, I do not say “at least I am working white collar.” I say, “At least I have a salary of my own.”

I was originally told that what was good about being a professor was the that it was a white collar job with security, and that what was bad about it was the research expectation. This is ridiculous, of course, since it is the research component that distinguishes it — if all one wants is a white collar position with security, there is much else to choose from. Why professor jobs might be better than other professional jobs is the interesting question.

My theory on it was that the life of the mind was fascinating, being a research professional was interesting, teaching was fine, and service/administration was all in a day’s work. I had also noted that fieldwork = adventure travel = fun, and that interacting with other intellectually oriented people = fun.

What I did not expect to encounter was the investment of so many professors in suffering and/or false stoicism, and the common idea that suffering = research. I also did not expect to have to work with the assumption that writing + publishing = pain you must endure for survival’s sake only.

I think those proclamations are gatekeeping speech acts like the kind of preface I criticize above. I say that to be a professor you have to like to write academic prose and have some research questions you really want answered. You have to be in a position to insist on pursuing those questions, not just “more sensible” questions (according to someone else). Then:

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

Much of the advice I got as an assistant professor was the standard advice I had also received in graduate school. It was disconcerting to have this entry level advice constantly reiterated. It was assumed that one would not have heard it already, or that one could not be following it because one was not male enough to have understood it the first time. Some of this advice consisted of insightful variations on the standard advice. Some of it was incoherent, willfully misleading, or otherwise inappropriate. It was not always easy to distinguish among these categories of advice because the site was so unfamiliar.

There is one piece of information and advice, however, that I have never been given and that I would like to give everyone, at least in the fields I know: writing is fun, and publishing is easy. That doesn’t mean it is not a lot of work and that you have to really do it, but it remains true that writing is fun, and there are so many places to publish things that in fact it is easy.

I wanted to say these things as an antidote to all the grim repetitions I have seen that you must publish to survive, but that to write is to suffer, and that then it is almost impossible to place what you do produce. I have always been told these things and I have always found this news very discouraging but I have never found it to be actually true. I wonder why, and to whom, it is so important to impart so many warnings and to place such value on fear and suffering.

Writing is fun and publishing is easy.

Axé.

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “A Heretical Post

  1. I wonder why anyone thinks that teaching is easy compared to researching? Even with the gender inflection, I can’t seem to make sense of this kind of symbolism. Especially not with the balance of power being with the students, these days.

  2. historiann

    Love this. I think there is frequently a culture of complaint that begins in grad school, perhaps because students fear that they’re not going to be thought of as serious unless they’re constantly complaining about how much reading and writing they have to do.

  3. HISTORIANN – Yes. You know, in graduate school our professors told us we were not suffering enough, or appearing to suffer enough! Your work is good, but you will not succeed if you do not appear to suffer, said they!

    JENNIFER – Yes, teaching is hard.

    Why some people find teaching easier than research: some people like to read, think and talk but don’t like to write. Reading + thinking + talking + not writing except for lectures, class notes, and so on = teaching. Some really get a charge out of guiding others. Some are not actually good teachers, so teaching takes no effort and they call it easy. Others are teaching a skill and have figured out a methodology that works. Graduate seminars where you, the famous professor, just read from your book manuscript to a rapt audience, are easy. Having a topic you like in an area you’re comfortable with and interested students with good skills is easy.

    Why people find research rough: in some cases I think it is because of the tenure system which can have unrealistic research expectations and in which it is possible to terrorize people with the fact that if their projects do not come to fruition at the right moment, or are not easy to sell given current fashions, the axe will fall.

    Research can also be hard because you really do need to have enough time in the day where your head can be clear. On an 8-5, 8-6 or 8-8 job with a commute plus kids and a household to maintain, which is the situation of many, research is rough unless you have holes in your schedule, a reasonably quiet place to work, and a usable library on your own campus. In the absence of those things research takes place when you are tired and takes time you should be resting, and feels hard.

    The problems with which I have less empathy are that you have to get ideas, grow with them, and come up with something new. Also, research is long term. You have to undertake it as a sustained effort.

    CODA ON TEACHING ENTHUSIASMS:

    There are also people who would like to be teaching but not research faculty, and yet cannot afford this because instructor / lecturer pay is so low and also because if you are not research faculty you do not have so much control over what you do teach, or any real input into curricular decisions.

    Where I am now it was not always necessary to have a Ph.D. to be a professor. With your M.A. — a more substantial degree then than now — you started in. You taught a full range of courses at the undergraduate and M.A. levels, and you kept reading, so you were interesting and interested. This was O.K. for many generations of students, in terms of the education they got, especially since high school was very basic.

    These people didn’t teach with the kind of depth and focus a Ph.D. could. But they say that the new faculty, with Ph.D.’s, are less well educated than they generally, even if they have pointy-headed specialties in which they publish. They have a point but they are gesturing toward a different institutional model than the one now in place.

  4. I love this, as I have loved many of your posts on writing and, in general, doing what works for oneself, not what other people tell a person to do. People who tried to mentor me also tried to get me to do the sort of writing they do, which doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve had to go back to doing what I do, and in order to improve, analyzing scholarly work I do admire. I’d love to have a real mentor, but you make me feel I’ll do fine mentoring myself. Thank you.

  5. Pingback: Of heresy, fun, and gatekeeping speech acts : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  6. Thanks for this post. I’ve been having similar thoughts lately about my own writing. And even though I had sworn off academic labor posts for now, I wrote one on this just for fun: Fun At Work.

  7. Thanks DEH and Lumpen, and wow, Historiann, I’m featured!

    I wrote this post to get over reading some other posts. I have this blog because I never did find a shrink who can shrink me as well as I can myself.

    It seems I am now glimpsing a revelation that is therapeutic and research related all at once.

    Therapy level: as I’ve seen less clearly before, I have huge issues about the idea that I shouldn’t be writing and if I am writing, I shouldn’t be writing my own ideas but echoing those of someone more authoritative. I do not believe I can sit in the seat of authority and authorship as myself — and I know where this idea comes from and yes, it is a feminist problem.

    Research level: this book I am reading is talking about double voiced discourse, not entirely in the Bakhtinian or even the Du Bois sense … as relates to the subaltern subject … and to ventriloquism.

    This problem is related to mine, although I would not dare call myself a subaltern subject. I will first have to figure out that book (and review Bakhtin and Du Bois) and then see … and when I have time, come up with a post on ventriloquism, perhaps.

  8. Excellent post, profacero, and a thousand times yes to this: “This kind of preface makes sure we know the writer has an élite lifestyle, and intimates that writing is impossible without that. These prefaces thus perform a gatekeeping speech act: if you are not in my social stratum, you cannot write. ”

    I always read these as “I’d like to thank my exceedingly famous and powerful friends, of whom I know many more than any of you poor souls who are reading this, for their assistance with this manuscript. I’d also like to thank my well-connected Ivy mentors, which prove already (see Dr. Crazy’s recent post about academic snobbery) that I am better than you.”

  9. Oh, gracias. Historiann excerpted it and some of her commentators think I do not believe in gratitude and I do not realize how hard academic work is.

    They sound so much like my subtly and not so subtly oppressive father it is hilarious — mouthing the exact discourse of which I complain. I think they are male graduate students.

    (IRL I have a male assistant professor trying to pontificate at me at this very moment, too … it is really amazing how much these people think they know about what I should believe my experience to be.)

  10. Days later — I now declare myself officially over the comments on this post at Historiann’s. This is my most personally revolutionary post ever and it was very difficult to have people pick it up and instantly start saying oh but you must be grateful and oh writing is hard and oh it is not easy to publish these days. Those, precisely, have been the old, tired statements I have been hearing since before I started elementary school … I do not complain of them because they are complaints, I complain of them because they are gatekeeping speech acts!

    Also — in Reeducation I was supposed to quit academia because there are other academics in the family and it was bad to be something other family members were. What Reeducation did not realize is that it was so TRANSGRESSIVE to want to be one, to want to be a serious one, and so on … I was supposed to be a piano player, ballroom dancer, and housewife and it was hard to get to go away to college, let alone to a serious university. So the transgression is DONE if one is supposed to be transgressive, and the “rebellion” back into the girl life Reeducation wanted was actually conformity.

    Meanwhile I always had all of these terrified and terrorizing professors saying that you had to do very conformist work if you were to survive. So saying things can be easy is what I have to say to be free right now, and I am not interested in “sensible” arguments pointing out to me that there are difficulties. I have had more difficulties than many of the people making those “sensible” arguments will ever see. That is not the point.

    Ho detto.

  11. Now this has been picked up in a couple of other blogs, and featured (March 17) as an “around the web” post in IHE. It’s interesting … I wrote it largely as a reaction to the many posts giving advice to new faculty. I like Didion’s post on this issue the best. Find it and its followup at “I was so much older then” (WordPress): http://iwassomucholderthen.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/advice/, and followup http://iwassomucholderthen.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/addendum/.

    Since this post has been picked up in so many places, let it be known that it is in rebellion against my father who started saying as soon as I was born:

    1. Writing is hard
    2. Publishing is almost impossible
    3. You have to do both or you will be killed
    4. Teaching is unimportant
    5. Women don’t realize points 1-4 and must show they understand them.

    Lather, rinse, repeat. I heard it so many times from so many people and I still hear versions of it in the blogosphere, and what I do not understand is why people start going on that way at assistant professors – who already have a lot of writing FINISHED and who have been around plenty of time, plenty enough to know the score and come up with their own versions of it, appropriate to their own situations.

    So no, this is not a post against a “culture of complaint” or a Pollyannaish post about how everything is fine. It is a manifesto against almost fifty years of terror, fifty years of having to sit politely while male and otherwise patriarchal professors pontificated about how writing was hard and publishing was almost impossible, and about how we probably wouldn’t want to or wouldn’t be capable of that kind of dedication, and how we should disregard teaching, and on, and on.

    I am a research first person and I always have been and I really, really dislike the above referenced lecture. I do not think it is always well intended because I notice IRL that the same people who give it will repeat it, but not respond to more specific questions or give up any trade secrets. I think this “advice” is designed to scare and dissuade, not to help, when it is given so obsessively to people who already DO understand the basic point which is that we are not high school teachers, we are professors.

  12. FURTHER disclaimer. This post has now been linked to and commented upon in more places.

    If you think it is a post against a “culture of complaint,” know that I did not intend it in this way and I do not endorse this reading.

    If you think it is a post claiming that writing and publishing are not work and are not difficult, I do not endorse this reading, either. I don’t think you can actually read the post and think that it is making such a silly, or superficial claim.

  13. P.S. People also misunderstood Historiann on the “culture of complaint,” I think. She talks of the way people have to defend the difficulty of academic labor to those who do not respect it, do not believe it is work, etc. That raises a serious and separate issue.

    We get so defensive, back up against the wall after being told it isn’t “real” work and that we should spend 40 hours a week IN CLASS, that we start to protest not just to defend ourselves but against the bullying and insults our interlocutor is offering — calling us lazy, freeloaders, and so on, as your average Limbaugh listening person does.

    This bears examining.

  14. I don’t think this is any hope or health for the average listener of right wing media.

    The thing with them is not to employ the kind of defence that accepts the spotlight being put on you. Rather, it is they who make the attack, so they must explain it and develop their reasoning in rigorous terms. It’s like what I said about sparring. There are various sorts of attacks, but some open you up (by removing your guard position) more than others. The safest is a perpetual jab, in line with the level of the face, since such a technique doesn’t drop a guard, and its direct line also assures a certain amount of defense. (However, most people don’t do a jab properly, due to the weight of the arm in the punch, which causes their trajectory to drop a bit, along with the defending hand that loses its guard position.) If somebody lunges at you with a hook, or even with a cross, if you keep your eyes open you can defend against the side on which their guard is dropped due to the greater movement of the hand and body. Everyone who attacks leaves open gaps in their defence. That is the lesson here.

    Also the biggest gap in the defence of right wingers (as you have already noticed) is sloppy thinking.

  15. It would be nice if it were a question of debating someone — on this issue, that is easy to win. I think Historiann refers to laws already long in place requiring certain kinds of tedious documentation and justification, and the idea that if you’re sitting and thinking, you are available for interruption.

    *****

    Why I came back to this post: to make notes for another one or two sometime, if I get to it.

    A. Simplex, simpliciter.

    1. On how things have to come from within. On how Reeducation undermined that. On how Reeducation thought I was unfeeling because I was smart, and I was insulted, and how, ironically, Reeducation left me with no ability to contact feeling except exagerrated pain and fortunately, some of my practical survival skills. *That* was, oddly, how I started going around in a sleep deprived state, to divert or mask the actual source of pain, or to have an excuse for it. It is really an addictive behavior, my staying up so late.

    1.1 All of this feeds upon itself, creating a cycle of weakness. One knows what one should do, but does not have the strength or will because one is not really there, or not fully there. You have to be kind enough to yourself so that you have the space to grow back, and this is not easy to do; not all have the resources necessary to create a space in which the self can come out of hiding or grow back.

    2. On that book I became so complicated about why I couldn’t write. The complication was because my actual reasons were not allowed reasons, although they were good reasons.

    2.1. The reason I said yes to book in that form was that I, having too low confidence and not enough information or informers, thought it was my only chance.

    2.2. The reason I said yes to that (impossible) deadline was that I told myself I was not qualified to judge whether the deadline were realistic. I had always been pushed to move faster and never been trusted when I said I wanted to move realistically … in fact, insisting on a realistic schedule had often triggered oughtright abuse in the past. So I said yes partly because I thought I had to, and partly because I thought I couldn’t be right.

    2.3. What I could have said: (a) these are not exactly the revisions I want to make and (b) if I work in that direction it will take more than six months.

    2.4. This would have been utterly mature and appropriate and it was what I wanted to say but I dared not because to have an identity like that and be professional was precisely what I had learned in late graduate school and early professordom was unacceptable.

    2.5. Note that in academia you had to be an abusable child, but yet still go home and produce: it has *such* parallels with abusive families I wonder whether I project that into it, except that so many other people have said this about academia.

    2.6. Since I did not think I could say what is said in 2.3., I said yes, and then could not work. I said I was procrastinating, I said I was blocked, I said I had a confidence problem, I said Reeducation had brought up issues about my father which were preventing me from writing, I said everything except that I had doubts about the project design and schedule … doubts I could not voice because to do so would have meant using my own judgment.

    2.7. Using my own judgment, I already knew, worked well when no abusers were around, but if they were, it would occasion abuse. Since there were abusers in the vicinity at that time I was afraid to do it.

    2.8. I was also in the process of getting my core eaten at by Reeducation, so I had less access to self, less self to act with.

    2.9. As I keep saying, I seemed to know I had hidden myself for later so she wouldn’t get destroyed. This meant she couldn’t defend me, of course, which is the unfortunate part.

    3. I have recently wondered what it would be like to write and publish without all the threats I’ve had around it, and the huge load of guilt I still (obviously) carry about that book or rather, what I did to myself with it. Without all the threats and the guilt, writing sure would be fun, and publishing still would be easy!

    4. Lagniappe: while we’re on the topic of guilt. Guilt from my mother. I cost too much money. They had had to give up their happy lives to take care of me. She did not say directly that I was a burden, but she did say repeatedly that I was expensive and extravagant. (Still appears thinks I am extravagant and should be poor, unless someone comes along to make me rich. This has got to be projection.) She did not say that I was a mistake but I surmised from everything else she said that she regretted the decision and my father later told me on repeated occasions that she was too inhibited to say it but she never wanted to see me again. Since she could not say it to me she kept him up nights talking about it to him and he was tired, he wanted to sleep, so couldn’t I just comply and disappear my “selfish” self from their lives, forever?

    5. I did not because I thought that to actually grant that wish would be cruel.

    6. Having been pushed by Reeducation to think about the material in #4 while that book issue was going on, was a bad thing … but somehow that material is all related to that book, could I sabotage that book and NOT get killed or at least not literally get killed? (Perhaps it was that, I am not sure, but surely it was a rebellion against being good and against being pushed and against being the model child and against keeping the world safe for my parents.)

    7. On not being believed: I couldn’t get straight advice on how to handle the book issue because nobody would believe the problem was that I really disagreed with the manuscript. I couldn’t get straight advice later because nobody would believe I was as disabled from depression I was, even though I explained. I got pushed and pushed to stay in academia because nobody would believe I seriously wanted to leave.

    CONCLUSION: ALL of these things happen if one is constantly being undermined and if having a core is considered a sin and is considered to be hurtful to others. All of these events strongly suggest that I am an abuse victim and react like one. It is unfortunate that I was in that abusive relationship with Reeducation when the events with that book took place — I am sure that without Reeducation I may have dealt much better, I’d be curious to know how much — but really, I bark entirely up the wrong tree when I try to explain those events in any terms other than, disabled abuse victim. I mean, really. I’m not saying that to say I’m weak or impaired, I’m saying it because it is what I see and it’s the only answer that covers the issue, makes enough sense so that I don’t have to second guess it, allows me to say anything relaxed like, “well, that was then…”. It’s the only answer that actually gives peace, as in, is satisfactory enough that it makes me feel I can close the book on that whole period, stop wondering about it, stop criticizing myself about it, and better see my abuse issues now.

    I would even say that in order to cure yourself of the effects of abuse you have to REALLY realize it really was abuse and was not your fault. That is harder to do completely than people realize. But it is only when you stop saying, what could I have done better, so that this would not happen? that you can actually free energy and vision to see yourself as you are now and to care for yourself now.

    And that is why I am so opposed to the New Age people, the ones who say that whatever happened is your fault, either because you created it, perceived it, or caused it in some other way. (These New Age people must formerly have been people who thought they could do no wrong.)

  16. It’s harder to accept that it was abuse and not your fault because it means giving up some of your immortality. That is difficult to do. To confess to yourself: “I’m far from omnipotent; indeed, in this instance, I was totally overwhelmed,” involves taking a blow and suffering narcissistic loss. So we don’t like to experience that, and we prefer to think, “I was in control, but…” or something like that. If you’re going to succumb to a narcissistic blow, then you do need to compensate yourself for this somehow — either with extra time and space permitted to you, or with some kind of idea that “this taught me something”, or with Nietzsche’s notion: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

    These are approaches which may work, to deal with the inevitable narcissistic blow that comes from admitting, “I genuinely had little control over that situation, and there was little I could have done to have more control.”

    Good luck.

  17. Yes. And I forgot to reiterate: writing is fun, and publishing is easy! It’s my anti-abuse sentence! :-)

  18. P.S. Re publishing being easy — remember that I can publish in a few different countries, and that my fields are broad. This may be why for me it is not as heart rending to find a “home” for pieces as it is for some.

  19. And, back to Jennifer’s last comment, above:

    1) It is odd, though, how the Reeducation type industry wants you to say you DID have control, choices, etc. Otherwise you are “dodging responsibility” or “blaming others” for what you should admit YOU did. This, I suppose, is the psycho-police. It just reiterates abuse.

    2) I don’t believe in that thing, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, in my experience. What has strengthened me hasn’t been destruction and abuse. What has strengthened me has always been positive influence, which has supported resistance to destruction and abuse. I haven’t read the context in which Nietzche said this but I think it is quoted as often as it is because it so justifies the existing structure of authority.

  20. 2) I don’t believe in that thing, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    It can work that way if you are still underdeveloped or immature in some way. A different kind of experience can ignite a part of self that wasn’t aware before.

  21. As per the message above, the whole thing really depends on your character structure. I, for instance, was as tightly wound as can be, very “stiff upper lip” until the workplace issues cropped up. When I saw what was being brought against me — and for what??! — it altered my character structure. I was both horrified and extremely tantalised by the extreme irony of it all.

    Why bring a barrage of attack against someone who was already extremely authoritarian, willing to lick your boots and do what you say?? — I couldn’t believe what was happening.

    So I resolved to lose my authoritarian streak, hide a great deal of my own thoughts and agenda (which, foolishly, I had not done before). I became a very different sort of person, in the process of fighting back.

    It wasn’t all good, though. I still have physical (and some emotional) injuries.

  22. I still have not figured out how to hide my own thoughts and agenda. These are, of course, constantly misinterpreted, but it appears it is my character to keep on coming out with them. I give up. Jeg er saadan.

    E.T.A.: Authoritarian streak, as in, being “good” and trying to please, I still have more of that than I should.

  23. If you were behaving in a different way before, people can expect the same, naive behaviour. However, you can use the now seemingly naive behaviour as a mask, and operate it differently behind the scenes.

  24. This is what I have been attempting since 1977, but it has not quite worked yet, or that is to say, it works, but only for me and mine.

    E.T.A. What I mean: I really don’t think life is that simple. I don’t think I’m naive except insofar as I still do not realize how underdeveloped many people are, and how much negativity is in them.

  25. You’ve got to lock them into one mode of thinking about you, by making mistakes that actually cost you something. That defines your authenticity as a person living at a naive level. Only then can you switch.

  26. Now I am truly lost … I don’t think we’re talking about the same things. I’m tempted to delete the present comment and the last four, starting with mine in response to yours, and saying I haven’t lost all of my desire to conform.

    Anyway. What I am still working on is realizing that much of what I was taught about the world wasn’t true. I knew it then, but I keep discovering new layers of the falseness, and I keep on discovering new layers in myself of reactions to the falseness, the games, the sadism, and the coldness … I keep on finding out that people really do live in unhappier worlds than I comprehend.

    *

    And for me a great deal of it comes back to just not wanting to hear one more alcoholic rambling. I used to think, for example, that one reason I didn’t publish that book that I am so embarrassed to have abandoned was that it was going to have to disagree with some of my father’s things and that I didn’t have the guts to do it. I was then further embarrassed by this (my own) interpretation … don’t have the guts for THAT?

    But really what irritated me was having to engage his things at all, because I can remember when he wrote those texts. He would get drunk and lecture on them, and we had to pretend for my mother that he wasn’t drunk, but also have raining on all of our heads her anger that intellectual matters were being discussed. It was all migraine causing and very stressful.

    So it wasn’t fear of individuation or anything fancy, it was just not wanting to look at the written versions of what for me were painful alcoholic rants.

    If I’d realized that then (I just realized it this week), I could have easily gotten through it. But I thought that what his whiteman voice inside my head was saying was, “just write it, be good, write or die!” and I thought that to individuate I should reject my writing being entirely … and I wanted to find out whether I would really die if I refused to write.

    *

    So anyway, that’s back to the “writing is fun, and publishing is easy” theme. I am not trying to tell people these things aren’t hard work. I am just realizing, just beginning to imagine, what it would be like to ONLY have the work, and not also have it infused with abuse / projection / fear.

  27. I was just talking about how “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” seemed to work for me. I realise that your situation and mine were/are not the same!

    As I said, I came from an authoritarian culture, so I learned some healthy disrespect in perceiving that whatever I did, there was no way to escape punishment — so why be authoritarian then? One suffers for it, but is not rewarded for it at all.

    IN your case, it seems you had more ambivalence towards your environment than I did. IN my case, it was like someone (me) switching a switch in my head that said, “They’re not playing by the rules. Now you are free.” But a lot of my response has to do with being a foreigner, and realising that others have a different standard/conception of morality than I had. Nonetheless, if they are bullying me, I thought, that voids any social contract I may have thought we had between us.

  28. I love this last comment, Zero. I feel like I should put it above my desk to keep my own demons at bay. You don’t realize the good you do for others just by being honest with yourself. It’s liberating for us to see you face your demons.

  29. J – ah, but I am still learning to *detect* bullying … which I am a lot better at doing when I am a foreigner. I just mean I don’t like the way Nietzche’s phrase is used in the culture I am in now.

    N – pues gracias. Can you believe Reeducation thought I was “in denial” …? and “hiding in intellectualism” … ? And that in Al-Anon they liked to say “you are not being honest yet” because I was not leading the utterly chaotic life I “should” be given my putative background … so it must be that I was not admitting it or that I was repressing the desire to do it or I was in some other way insincere? (And no, it is not that I learned to do this in Reeducation, it is that Reeducation saw I could already face demons and was very freaked out about that.)

  30. Days later, having just detected some abuse.

    1. I notice that one is always told that one should be kind about abusive people because they are suffering … but I tend to see the suffering first and the abusive behavior later, if at all.

    2. I’d answer Nietzche: what doesn’t kill me wastes my energy and time.

  31. Actually, it is a Christian virtue to notice those who are suffering and to pay attention to them. It is a Nietzschean form of reasoning to consider that those who are suffering may well be abusive.

  32. That is extremely interesting.

  33. Those who are suffering are likely to defend their vanity with a kind of emotional duplicity known as ressentiment. That is why Nietzsche championed “the strong” — those who are not prone to suffering. The latter are less likely to be dupicitous in order to drag others down to their own level. They may be consciously duplicitous in order to obtain more power, but they will not be so in a manner of promoting petty revenge.

  34. Good God, of course … this hits several nails right on the head. Perhaps I finally understand this part of Nietzche in a practical sense. The herd mentality is a Bane! ;-)

  35. Pingback: Vita Nuova - Mais Uma Vez « Professor Zero

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