Pulling a Shelley

Recovered  from the Wayback Machine.

There are several webloggers I admire not just because of their facility with writing, but also because they stand by what they write. They may debate their words, but they don’t retract them, and rarely regret them.

In particular, I’ve always liked Jonathon Delacour’s tenacity when it comes to his writing. His work doesn’t always follow the popular path (and I don’t always agree with what he writes) but he stands by his writing with humor, elegance, and skill and without becoming belligerant or defensive when it’s questioned or even attacked.

(Does anyone remember You and I both know, Dave, that the breathtaking hypocrisy of “Where Men Can Link, But They Can’t Touch” isn’t going to get “looked at” any time soon, not by the BlogSisters nor by anyone else in the blogging universe?).

When AKMA writes about confidentiality, or Dorothea writes about self perception and ugliness, neither is taking a “popular” view on their subjects, but both are writing from the heart. They stand by their writing.

Loren once used the term “Pullling a Shelley” to denote putting one’s foot in one’s mouth — writing something regreted, which is then either pulled or apologized for. And I agree with Loren, that I have been “pulling a Shelley” far too frequently. However, my use of the term is perhaps not in the sense that Loren intended.

Lately I’ve been writing more and more “from the heart”, but then I don’t have either the strength or the courage to stand by what I write. And if people I like or respect disagree or question what I write, or I don’t get positive feedback and lots of comments, I tend to equivocate, explain, retract, or apologize for my writing.

My last posting is a classic example of “Pulling a Shelley”. By putting myself into an apologetic stance within the comments, by ‘explaining’ what I was trying to write, I didn’t stand by my writing. And what I wrote was lessened because of my wanting to ‘please’ my audience, even though my audience wasn’t asking for either a retraction or an explanation — they wanted a dialogue.

I think if there is one trait I have that can be said to be stereotypically ‘feminine’, it’s fear of alienating people I like, or whom I want to like me. Unfortunately, this fear of losing affection carries over into my writing.

Earlier today, I caught myself in the act of “Pulling a Shelley” in comments attached to one of Jonathon’s postings. In the them, Mark Pilgrim wrote:

“Work that is accessible in every sense of the word” is such an incredible weasel phrase. It’s like a philosophy freshman who is losing a philosophical argument and falls back to the “dictionary definition” of some technical term in order to make their point.

I’m becoming Stallman. I can just see it.

I wrote in response, You’re not in danger of becoming Stallman, Mark. But you are in danger of becoming intolerant in your zeal.

Later in the afternoon, I found myself going back to Jonathon’s comments, wanting to attach, if not an apology, at least a softening of my comment. Yet, there’s no need for such prevarication — my statement wasn’t a personal attack on Mark and wasn’t said to hurt him or antagonize him. It was my honest opinion based on his statement — why do I feel this need to apologize for it?

There’s a difference between writing to antagonize — to generate buzz or to deliberately create controversy — and writing from the heart. If one writes from the heart, no matter how difficult the writing is for our audience, then we have an obligation to ourselves and to our readers to stand by what we write — not in defensiveness, but with openess and honesty.

Time for me to stop “Pulling a Shelley”. Perhaps I’ll try “Pulling a Loren”, instead…

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