Part of being a genuine writer is acknowledging your bias or biases. That’s why today’s writing-related Challenge (as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page) dares you to do exactly that.
Challenge your bias by listening to someone on the other side for a change.
If you read Tuesday’s Innovative Editing blog post, then you have at least a basic understanding of bias. And if you accepted what that blog post said, then you recognize how you yourself are biased. We all are.
Our biases might be right, of course. Or they might be wrong. But a great way to get closer to the truth is to pay attention to the opposition’s argument every so often instead of filling our minds with the “we’re right and they’re wrong” propaganda that we usually like to hear.
If that sounds uncomfortable or even terrifying, I completely understand. Back when I was younger, a book came out that challenged my entire worldview. Being as edgy as it was by a big-platform author, this non-fiction publication seemed to be everywhere I turned.
Whenever I saw a copy, I felt sick to my stomach. That’s such a cliché, I know, but it was true in this case. My insides turned into this queasy mass at just the thought of what might be inside.
What if it was right? What if I was wrong? What if the very foundation of everything I thought I was turned out to be a lie?
Despite that genuine anxiety – even terror – I knew I had to pick it up if I wanted to be intellectually honest. While my parents had raised me with definite values and beliefs, they also encouraged me to think for myself on both scientific and philosophical levels.
Therefore, the notion of ignoring this scholarly challenge felt dishonest. Even while my emotions urged me to run away at full speed, my mind was being pulled toward my possible doom.
I’m not sure if it took me a matter of weeks or months to pick it up, but I eventually did, feeling like a fainthearted version of David against Goliath.
Whether I opened to the first page or some random spot escapes me all these years later. What stands out much more clearly is how I only read two or three lines, which boiled down to a slightly more academic version of “you’re a stupid poopy head if you disagree.”
Since my worldview was based off of much stronger logic than that, I put the book back down and went on my merry way, ecstatic that my bias had held up to his.
Admittedly, his silly rationale doesn’t mean that he’s wrong and I’m right. It just means he needs a better editor to help him formulate more convincing arguments. And no, I’m not available for that particular job.
Even if I was, I don’t think he wants any such thing considering how I’ve opened up other books of his since and read more than two or three lines. The same “you’re a stupid poopy head” reproach remains. As such, I now read him for entertainment’s sake, not out of any compulsion to challenge my biases. There are much better sources available for that sort of thing.
Yet I’m still exceptionally happy that I picked up that first book. Otherwise, I might still be wondering if I was living out a lie.
Or take something as simple as my personal bias against William Carlos Williams’ poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, which goes like this:
so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.
Back in college, I was of the firm opinion that The Red Wheelbarrow is a pointless, boring poem. Yet my lifelong friend and fellow literary snot, Danae, thinks it’s brilliant. This point of contention got us into actual fights when we were rooming together, complete with bouts of not speaking.
It wasn’t until she pointed out (or perhaps I simply listened to) the historic significance of the poem that I accepted the idea that my bias might not be entirely right. Maybe The Red Wheelbarrow does serve a point.
However, it still remains boring.
That’s my bias, and I’m sticking with it until someone presents a worthwhile challenge to that stance. And maybe not even then.