Today, I went to a roundtable discussion arranged by my campus Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) chapter. The guest, Levi Bryant, author of the blog Larval Subjects, and professor of philosophy, had an informal discussion with a group of graduate students and Dr. Ron Brooks, our First-Year Composition program director.
In this conversation, Dr. Bryant discussed his blog and how it relates to his work in the academy. Dr. Brooks launched the discussion by asking Dr. Bryant, in reference to his wildly successful blog on philosophy, “How do you do it?”
Bryant, eliciting a laugh from all of us, said he didn’t know, he didn’t like to think about it too hard. Of the many things he said about the process of actually getting his blog going, when he said that we have to authorize ourselves to be stupid and redundant, I found myself feeling relief.
I started this account a while ago, but have rarely posted. I posted as “inkinherveins” for a course blog, but never did anything with that. I revived the blog temporarily for a couple assignments for my History of Rhetoric course last fall. Then, I told myself I would write one post a week about the materials I’m reading for my reading list. I’ve only managed a couple of posts.
Every time I sit down to write something that’s not for school, I have a moment of agony. I don’t know what tone to strike, I don’t know if anyone will care what I have to say; I don’t always have anything new to say, or anything much to say at all. I feel stupid, redundant, awkward. Bland.
But I need to write. I need to write about my work, I need to talk about my work, and I need to do it in a way that I feel has a place outside of the academy.
That’s part of my problem, I think. Part of the reason I haven’t kept up with the blog. The things I think about, the things I read, the things I write habitually are for school. For my professors. For hypothetical publication in a journal or with a university press someday. And then, who will read them? What good will they do, if the only people who read my work are more academics, really, what good will my work actually do?
Bryant called this circle of academics writing for academics a sort of Reagonomics–trickle down theory, that’s supposed to somehow drip down out of the ivory tower. That’s not what I want to do–not what I believe is needed. Intellectual and academic work needs to be in a format that is as accessible as possible. It needs to be democratic, at the very least, if not something even more radical.
That’s kind of what I had in mind for this blog, I think, when I started it. Trying to write about my work in an accessible format, but then I get discouraged.
So I’m giving myself a license to be stupid, to be redundant, to be mistaken, as I try to sort out my ideas and open up my work for discussion and input. I am authorizing stupidity here, and I’m not going to worry over whether what I post here is original, if it’s already been said before, if I haven’t read all the things before I feel like I can say something. I’m just going to write, and hope for some sort of response, some sort of conversation, to eventually come out of it.