By Doctor Comrade
Reflecting back on the year I've spent writing and editing Handsy Comprehensive Exam, I've published or written 60 blog posts and 20 podcast episodes. But in addition to what I've put up on the website, I've also killed off quite a few posts while I was in the middle of writing them.
I hate doing that.
Numerous times, I've had an idea, and I begin my process: compiling research and links, finding good quotes and examples and evidence, and outlining the post I'm going to write. I usually pitch it to Comrade Sloth, my contributing editor, who almost always gives me a green light (but she also tells me to tweak ideas early on to make them more clear, which is helpful). But more times than I'm willing to admit, I get through a good chunk of a post and I hate it so much that I have to stop writing, and that post never goes up on the site.
I hate doing that.
I feel like I invested a bunch of time into an essay, so when I stop writing, it feels like I've wasted time. I never feel like I have much free time to begin with: I work, and when I get home from work, I definitely don't feel like writing or researching anything because that's what I do at work all day. Then I cook or clean and before I realize what's happening, it's time to go to bed. What time I have devoted to writing--fiction, non-fiction, blogging, music--I feel like I have to conserve and use carefully. So when I have to stop writing something, it's a major blow to my plans.
And it's an indictment of my ego. I don't mean ego here in the sense of getting a big head or being overly confident. I mean my ego as a scholar and my self confidence, something I've written about before: "I do doubt my own abilities, while at the same time holding the dissonant view that I can solve anything, especially when I am under pressure to perform... probably because I'm afraid that I'm not an original thinker and can't generate an idea. I doubt my originality, but I feel the undying need to produce creative content... I fear that people will find out I'm a fake, yet I continue to put myself in situations where I could be found out." So when I stop a post, when I kill it, it's also like I'm attacking myself, telling myself that I'm incapable of finishing something, of solving a problem, of taking a failure and making it a success.
Last week, I was writing a post about an article published by The Atlantic. The Atlantic compiled a short article based on interviews with “leading scholars of how the economy is run” in order to answer the question, “What would it take for the economy to be more fair?” My principal criticism was that these authors had not only ignored the possibility of democratizing the means of production, but had ignored the entire history and philosophy of Marxism. I said, "it is myopic to claim 'we’re starting to look' for solutions. The solutions have been obvious since the mid-nineteenth century: corporations are not beholden to the will of the workforce, and therefore do not function for the best interests of workers or society as a whole. What are open to debate include the role of the state in regulation and the feasibility of systems like the welfare state. However, to pretend as though solutions to the cult of shareholder value have not been imagined ignores the progress of almost two centuries of political philosophy dealing with inequities in power and economics."
What I found myself doing was shitty Marxist analysis. I don't give myself a lot of credit for doing good analysis usually, but in this particular post, I was proffering a ham-fisted, poorly constructed Marxist critique of a pretty terrible article in The Atlantic. Really, why was I wasting my time doing that? I asked myself. I'm convinced that my thesis was correct: the article had ignored two centuries of political philosophy, popular movements, massive historical trends, and the legacy Marx left behind. I was not offering good or original analysis, however, and I had to kill the post. It was beyond repair.
The debate is certainly warranted if any of my blog posts are good (considering some of the comments on Reddit and Youtube, yikes). At least I try to hold myself to a standard where I won't regurgitate the same essay every week.
I also killed off a blog post tentatively titled, "JEB Bush hates women." (Yes, I am very creative.) After comments made by the floundering presidential candidate about defunding Planned Parenthood, I committed a slice of my ego, self-esteem, and time to attacking his misogynistic positions on women's health. But then I thought, we already have this. And so does the internet (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I don't need to mansplain women's health into the echo chamber that is the left-wing blogosphere.
"Education as Commodity" is a file sitting in my Dropbox. In it, I had written "Education is not a resource; it is a means of production." Sometimes, I just don't know what I'm doing.
That's what I want to admit. Our online personae are so pretentious and false, so carefully curated and constructed, that we get lost in our own conceptions of self-worth. Attention from anonymous readers on the internet isn't important; what they think of me as a person isn't important. I want to admit that sometimes, I really don't know what I'm doing, I'm scared that I'll say the wrong thing and get taken to task by critics who cut through my feelings as easily as they cut through my arguments. I am not the man I pretend to be on the internet. And when I stop writing a blog post, I feel like I've sacrificed a small part of my esteem because I so heavily rely upon the rush I get when I publish something I'm proud of.
That's why I kill posts. To protect myself. Because I am scared.