Words, Words, Words

October 30, 1999

"I am aware that the public mind has been already nearly sated with the private stories of individuals, many of whom had few, if any, claims to public attention; & the injuries which have resulted from the promulgation of fictitious histories, and in many instances, of journals entirely fabricated for the purpose, has had the effect to lessen the public interest in works of this description, and very much to undervalue the general cause of truth. It is, however, not the less important and necessary, that narratives should continue to be furnished that have their foundations in fact; and the subject of which embraces new and interesting matter in any department of the arts or sciences. When the motive is worthy, the subject and style interesting, affording instruction, exciting a proper sympathy, and withal disclosing new and astonishing traits of human character:--this kind of information becomes of great value to the philanthropist and philosopher, and is fully deserving of attention from every description of readers." -- Owen Chase, Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex of Nantucket which was attacked & finally destroyed by a large Spermaceti-Whale in the Pacific Ocean, with an Account of the Unparalleled Sufferings of the Captain and Crew during a space of ninety-three days in open boats in the years 1819 & 1820

I recently received the flattering offer to join the Not-A-Webring group of online journals. I was asked to write a tagline for my journal, and after some thought I came up with "Laidback intelligent, intermittently insightful, consciously unpretentious."

The term "laidback intelligent" was used by a friend in a high school summer math program, who was distinguishing me from some of the flashier prodigies. I liked it. For one thing, it captured the feeling that I didn't need to show off. My style was to lean back in class, let other people have the glory, and every once in a while, when some problem had everyone else stumped, I'd come up with a clever solution.

I'm still like that, in a lot of ways. When I'm arguing online, I usually don't feel the need to repeat points I've already made, even if that means letting the other fellow have the last word. I figure the people reading are smart enough to remember what I said. It's a lowkey approach that suits me.

As for "intermittently insightful", that's an honest bit of modesty. Most of my fiction has flashes of talent, but I think only a few short pieces have been completely successful. I'm a lot like that in real life too.

"Consciously unpretentious" is the philosophy I think I live by. Most people try in one way or another to make a good impression. I try to show people what I'm really like. That can be as simple as asking questions when I don't understand something, instead of pretending I do, or as tough as writing publicly about personal anxieties. It means owning up to your failures, both to yourself and to those you've wronged. It means disclaiming unearned credit and privilege. It isn't easy, but it does increase self-confidence, in the long run--which is what really matters.

This entry may have ended up sounding a little more conceited than I'd intended. If so, please remember that I discussed only a couple of my good qualities. I have lots more bad ones that I didn't even mention.

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