Friday, January 2, 2009

Wise Words for the Intrepid Blogger (Including Me)

Here's a great observation about creativity, made by someone I've never heard of. I stumbled over it at some other blog. The hyperlink is a beautiful thing.
"[F]eeling creative" produces great work in approximately the same way that “feeling like a doctor” makes you a gifted thoracic surgeon.
Just so. Likewise, "I've got something to say" doesn't mean you should say it, and "I've got an idea" doesn't make it good, and doesn't mean you ought to share it. "I think I'm going to start blogging" doesn't mean that anyone will read what you say, and it doesn't mean that anything you say will be worth the price of an electron.

This little remark also reminds me of something I used to say about Greek and Hebrew: I knew just enough to be dangerous. The author's point, of course, is that hard work and lots of practice is almost always involved in becoming really good at something. St. Thomas said that attaining knowledge of the truth is very difficult. It's the same sort of observation.

Unfortunately it's easy for us to develop the opinion that we've become good at something when we really haven't. I look back at how much I knew then, or what I could do when I started, and the comparison might give me the impression that I'm a true artiste, or a regular Aristotle, or the next whiz-bang singer, or whatever. Unfortunately that's rarely the case. An eight-year-old knows a heck of a lot more than a toddler, but he is still only eight. But the combination of knowing how little I knew in comparison to how "much" I know, coupled with the insidious temptations to pride, make it all too easy to bloat my ego.

It's sad (and, for the expert, probably a mix of ridiculous and annoying) to see people who don't really know much about a subject act like they do - as when Joe Layman whips open his Strong's Concordance (complete with Greek and Hebrew!) and starts lecturing others on exegesis, or when he mines books for scare quotes that he doesn't understand. We look foolish when we act as though it's easy to attain knowledge of the truth. It's not - not in any field. Of course, there are those for whom it may be easier - but it has become easier for them, by and large, because of lots of hard work that you and I never see.

So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? I have no idea. I have an idea or two about what it means for this blog, though. A major reason why I write is because, to a certain extent, "I have to do it." What I mean is that there's stuff in my brain that I need to get "on paper." I feel a subjective sort of compulsion to do this. But that doesn't mean that anything I say is worth a hill of beans. The most that can be said for certain about it is that I'm a windbag. But I'm no expert - not about much of anything, and certainly not about theology, nor about Catholic dogma. There aren't all that many genuine experts about anything in blogdom - at least, not in comparison to the mind-boggling number of bloggers and blogs. I am not one of those experts.

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