Monday, October 03, 2005

Corrigendum, not apologia

OK, I goofed.

I felt bad for an honest tryer, tried to write about the feeling and produced something that didn’t make much sense. It was bad communication. But it did provoke some responses. Nobody called me an arrogant son-of-a-bitch, but the sub-text was clear. Where do you get off, you self-important bucket of industrial waste, implying that you are actually superior to others?

Owwww. Damn. That wasn’t what that was about.

It was about the feeling of watching somebody walk down the corridor with their undies showing and people sniggering about it. No wait, after Shefali Zariwala and Saif Ali Khan, that’s not a good example. Try again.

The feeling when some quiet kid says she’s going to try for the CAT and you know she’s hard-working, she’s a good kid but her chances of making it are practically non-existent. And you know that she’s going to try for it again and again until the disappointment shatters her confidence and she’s wasted three years of her life trying. And that shit about “at least she gave it a try” is all very well for authors of self-help books who grew up reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but it’s not going to make her rich or successful or happy, let alone give her back her three years.

Now – and here’s where the good doctor might listen up - she could have perfect pitch, she might be incredibly well co-ordinated physically, she might be a wizard with gizmos. But she can’t crack the CAT. The question is, why the dickens does she keep trying to crack the CAT when she could be excelling somewhere else? It doesn’t make sense to me. And I feel bad for her, because there are people who will dismiss her or categorise her as ‘that girl who keeps trying that exam every year’.

I know that there are things I just can’t do, things that I’m no good at. So her failure finds a resonance in my fear of my own failure. And I cringe for her.

I know that it’s not my place to tell her what’s wrong with her, I know I’ll never do it. Yet I look back, maybe I look inside, and think of all the times when I wanted somebody to tell me what I was doing wrong, but never had the guts to ask because I was afraid of ridicule. (Thanks, Quizman). So many contradictions. Simplest to just STFU. And look away.

So what I was trying to communicate was, how bad do you feel when you come across these honest failures, people who go on trying despite being really bad at what they’re trying for? How far do you empathise with them? Do you have a sudden insight of the Robert Burns kind, you know, “Wad some gift the giftie gi’ed us ..”? And is that empathy strong enough to make you physically wince, or shake your head and bury yourself in something else for a while?

Does it lead you to dig out the up-side of the downbeat, yet feel a twinge of shame for your own condition?

Tell me.

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Ummm … this may be stupid, but after reading the comments, I want to say some things up front.

Why must people automatically assume that I regard them as inferior? I’m far more likely to think that any one of you is superior to me. Truly.

I have not passed any judgement on any particular blog.

I am not so insensitive or so egoistic as to tell anybody that his or her blog is bad. I haven’t done that.

And hey, I didn’t say anything about grammar in the previous post. Where did that come from?

Finally, why the f*** are any of you taking me seriously? I don’t take myself seriously, dammit.

Here endeth

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Falstaff said...

J.A.P.: I think the point that at least some of the comments to the last post were trying to make was that there are bloggers who write because it's a creative outlet and others who write purely as a form of self-expression. For the latter, 'writing' (and I use the term loosely) is simply a way of communicating with other people / expressing themselves, so that the quality is truly irrelevant. To ask why they keep doing it is like asking why people who don't look good in anything keep wearing clothes.

I think it may be useful, therefore, to distinguish between people who are writing creative pieces - poetry, fiction, reviews, etc. and people who are just writing about their life / their experiences. The ones I feel empathy for are the ones who are trying to write creatively and making a hash of it. If someone is just keeping a blog as a way of sharing his / her life with other people (as many of my friends do) then I don't feel sorry for him / her. On the contrary, I feel envious of people who actually have enough of a life to be able to write about it - I have to make stuff up because nothing ever happens in mine!

Rimi said...

re your response to my comment on your last post:
it sounded a bit harsh, the subtext almost read, bugger off. then i went back and read my comment, and perhaps, from your point of view, it wasn't as unbiased as i had meant it to be.

oh well.

what i had meant is what falstaff says. some people blog to express themselves, some use it as a consciously creative outlet, some as a juicy journal. and regardless of the distinction, the audience matters. it does to me, at any rate.

this, at the end of the day, is your blog, and as you pointed out, people who read it have the right to criticise, appreciate, or merely comment, to let you know they're there, one of the faithful. perhaps some of the veiled criticism was a little barabari, perhaps it was entirely all depends on the point of view, wouldn't you agree?

and the point of this comment, really, was to let you know that your the previous post rankled. at a personal level. it's never comfortable to know a general criticism might have a self-specific context.

Tom said...

Yes. We cringe.

And then we die, oh about...two thousand deaths at the thought that OUR work might evoke such a reaction from an 'audience' (?) used to higher standards, as well.

And then we shut down twice-begun blogs.

And then we start worrying about whether the quiet kid your refer to, is US.

(Am I?)

On a more constructive-criticism note;

It's perfectly alright to cringe.
I think it's normal and sometimes, maybe, even good.

Because maybe you start to worry a little...and maybe set the bar higher for yourself.

And, if asked for criticism, you evaluate from the point of view of the askee's audience, not yours.

And to the quiet kid you say, "Quiet kid - why don't you sing?".

vAgue said...

different strokes for different folks, no? something that makes you cringe makes another smile, serves a purpose other than what you might seek in it, or find missing in it.

You comment, you criticise, you opine, and if you are part of the feedbacker-profile the blogger awaits, it means something to him/her (if the blogger cares for any feedback at all).

also, at the end of the day, what if someone is aware of (their) failure and relentlessly tries irrespective? what if these bloggers (as is most likely the case)are doing what they're good at, and trying this out as well?
what if, you could say, a quiet girl gets through her CAT but keeps singing tunelessly at family get togethers just to see what its like?

babelfish said...

Ok this is going to get me yelled at but at the cost of sounding like Clodpool and carrying a metaphor far too far could we consider that some people enjoy walking down corridors with their undies showing (occasionally they even go the extra hog and buy multi-colored good looking ones).
My juvenile point would be this; any blog which invites comments is seeking a certain amount of attention. But while we enjoy the audience responses we accept them only when they fall in with our preconceptions.
And we write the way we want to, which is always the point of books by Richard Bach or Paulo Coelho. If someone is doing something because they want to, even at the cost of their whole life or three years, there's not much you can do. If you're close to them you could try but chances are they wouldn't listen if you tried to dissuade them.
I didn't think you were being superior in the previous post but I didn't comment partly out of the little fear that the shoe might fit me :)
Did any of that make sense? Sorry I'm not very good at getting my point of view across when I'm pretending to be serious and intelligent.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Falstaff - "The ones I feel empathy for are the ones who are trying to write creatively and making a hash of it." Egg-jactay-lee. 'SwotIsaid.

Rimi - why do you automatically assume that you are part of the 'inferior set' and not the 'superior set'? In fact, half the people who commented seemed to make that assumption. Why on earth? Most of them are on my blog-roll. Would I put them there if I thought their blogs are awful?
Besides, I did NOT 'pass judgement' on any particular blog. I did NOT say anything about poor grammar. These are assumptions on the readers' part. I think it says something about how they view me. About how you view me.

I suspect I should go away and eat worms!

Tom - so sing already.

Bhegu - good point. The question is, "what would you say if I sang out of tune / Would you stand up and walk out on me?"


sinusoidally said...

J.AP. how wrong, how wrong, how wrong, how wrong you are...and I know there is nothing I can say to you that will change your opinion about people who go on trying despite repeated failed attempts...hoping to be successful one day. There is a girl in my class who has been told all her life to look for an alternate way every step of her life. She has been asked to survive on disability check versus trying to get somewhere. She has been ridiculed and mocked for her choices and she has been told she can't succeed. This girl, legally blind, has survived four years of medical school involving direct patient interaction and her participation in surgeries. If she ever stopped for a moment to listen to people like you she would have never paved her way to be a fine physician that she will be in a few months.

I never thought such a 'great' writer like you could be so close minded.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

B'fish, child, I owe you a whole bag of sweeties for that ("I didn't think you were being superior in the previous post"). Nor does the shoe fit you - if it did, why would I put you on my blog-roll?

Now I'm putting some clarifications on the post itself.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Sinusoidally, I am further humbled by the example you cite. Your classmate is magnificent; her very persistence is success in itself.

See, my motto has usually been, 'If at first you don't succeed, you might as well give up'. I've had it far too easy in life; as a direct result, I don't have that steel in me. So don't take my windbaggery so seriously.

And WILL YOU PLEASE QUIT ALREADY ON THE SARCASM!??! I never claimed I'm a 'great' writer, dammit, I merely stated that I find some writing great - but not all. So shoot me!


Falstaff said...

JAP: I can't resist.

"Creep into thy narrow bed,
Creep, and let no more be said!
Vain thy onset! all stands fast.
Thou thyself must break at last!

Let the long contention cease!
Geese are swans, and swans are geese.
Let them have it how they will!
Thou art tired; best be still!

They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee?
Better men fared thus before thee;
Fired their ringing shot and passed,
Hotly charged —and sank at last.

Charge once more, then, and be dumb!
Let the victors, when they come,
When thy forts of folly fail,
Find thy body by the wall!"

- Matthew Arnold, 'The Last Word'

Quizman said...


Imho, CAT is a selection process with set guidelines, whereas any creative process (singing, blogging, making excuses for coming late to a meeting) are determined by its success in the 'marketplace'.

I refer you to Kipling and Frost

Ergo, let the market decide.

Quizman said...


That should read, [..]"the effectiveness of any creative process is determined by.."[..]

Rimi said...

grammar? when did i say anything baout that? but no, don't answer. this has gone on far too long already. and i perhaps see your point better now...

Rimi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
km said...

JAP, You were asked to judge someone's poetry. I wouldn't wish such a fate upon my worst enemy. The only thing worse than being asked to judge poetry is the question "do you think I have the looks to become a successful actor?"

Let's resume the scheduled programming, shall we?


Teleute said...

oh dear. what controversy you have given rise to.
but can i just say that i completely and wholeheartedly agree with all that you have said in this and the last post, irrespective of whether it makes me appear an insensitive clod or a snooty bitch?
regardless of what the content is (creative/ personal/ both), there are some blogs that make you cringe, wince, shudder, and then click on the "next blog" button, and pray fervently that the authors are not personally acquainted with you, and therefore there is no way that they will ask you for "honest criticism".