Friday, June 15, 2012

Pain and Doubt

I was reading a longish written piece today, and it was really hard, mostly because it wasn't well written.  In some ways, it was painfully badly written, with sentence, paragraph, and organizational problems.

I procrastinated about reading it (not horribly, but enough to mess up most of the day), and kept getting frustrated as I was reading it.  But I finished and responded.  I hope my response was helpful.

It's so much harder to respond to a longish piece that's poorly written.  Usually, say, in a writing class, you start students with fairly short papers, and while they are sometimes painfully badly written, it's three or four pages of pain.  This was considerably longer.

And those three or four pages, as you're reading them, you think about the most important things to repond to, and the things you'll be teaching the class as a whole, and you try to focus on a couple things, starting with big picture stuff.  But this piece needs to be right, and it's rushed, and it way harder to know what to respond to.

That's where my doubts come in.  I've read papers before where I felt that maybe I just wasn't smart enough to understand, and wasn't sure that wasn't the problem more than bad writing.  This paper wasn't like that.  Instead, my doubts come in about whether I can help this writer to do a better job writing this argument.  I have such doubts about how good I am at this part of life.

I did my best, focusing first on the bigger organizational stuff, and then including the lesser stuff to the extent that it absolutely has to be at least competent.

Now it's late enough that I'm going to put my bike on the indoor trainer, put food in my face, and then spin myself tired.  (The new week starts today, so I need to do 20-25 miles to feel good about my chances for another 100 mile week.  That also has to do with rain potential, and not just whether I can ride 100 miles.)

1 comment:

  1. I understand your situation. It's very hard to approach a large and sprawling piece of messiness in ways that feel useful. I tend to break it down into short sections of 2-3 pages in order to make it bearable for me and the author. It's still not easy, but it helps me to not feel overwhelmed as I try to fix everything.

    Good luck with the cycling and refocusing!