Book Progress: My Demons are Straw Men

I made good progress on the book today. We traveled to Indiana, where our family is from, for the holidays. I was able to capitalize on my kids’ exhaustion and inability to deal with the time difference. I got quite a bit of writing done. This morning, I have had what one calls, “momentum.” 

I am still on the second chapter (keep in mind that I have barely written the first because, somewhat counterintuitively, introductions are best written at the end.) I thought this would be the easiest chapter to work through. The content of the book, all but the final chapter, has basically been written as my dissertation. But the thing is, whenever I go back and read something I wrote a few years ago, I’m like, “…what?” Basically, I spend a bit of time hating myself. Right now, I am cursing myself for kicking over so many straw men.

I am, of course, referring to the straw man fallacy — the fallacy that is ubiquitous in blogs’ comments sections (second only to the Hitler fallacy). A straw man argument means that you sum up your opponent’s point in the weakest way possible. The result is a caricature of the position you are opposing. It’s a bit like a cage fight with a large teddy bear (or perhaps a man dressed in a teddy bear costume, which I suppose would really limit visibility and movement). Any victory achieved over such an opponent is not really a victory at all. It only makes the attacker (in this case the one doing the criticizing) look weak and cowardly.

That is why I try really hard to avoid straw man arguments. Not only are they unethical (i.e. deceptive), but they open the writer up to pretty easy and damning rebuttal. So I have spent a lot of time going over arguments I have already made, trying to make them better. I am nearly finished with that process. By which I mean, “I am about halfway done and really hope that the final section of this chapter is stronger than the first two.”

(If you want a summary of this chapter, here’s a link!)

On the other hand, it is possible probable that I am just obsessing. I am my own worst critic, especially when I have had time to forget my original pride in my finished product. Pride, the Bible says, cometh before a fall. I am hoping I have not fallen into a pit of endless revision. After all, I have a deadline.

Maybe I needed to start repeating a revised version of my dissertation mantra:

A good book is a done book. A good book is a done book…



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