Bad Advice Wednesday: Don’t Believe What You Think

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


Actual photograph

Actual photograph of Jesus dancing with the Disney kids

A great place for a personal essay to start is with a long-cherished belief.  Like that vitamin C helps colds, or that Jesus wasn’t married, or that the ocean is too vast to harm, or that such-and-such a writer is great or horrible, or that such-and-such type of music is boring, or that such-and-such city sucks.  And on and on.

Abstractions don’t really count, as you can’t really can’t get into much depth about whether love is all you need, love is all you need, love is all you need.  And straw men (stuff that everyone knows isn’t true, exhaustively argued) don’t count either.  A couple of which I’ve got listed above—I couldn’t seem to help riding my various hobby horses.

State the belief, and then set out (through research, travel, interviews, experiment) to prove yourself right, or wrong.  Wrong makes the best essay, with the movement from surety to correction providing the drama.


Bill Roorbach has a way of sounding right even when he’s wrong, and he’s often wrong. 

  1. Richard Gilbert writes:

    Bill, I recently wrote about PSH, a blog post I vehemently disagree with! Here it is:

    Basically, I said that his work—going deep, to emotional extremes—was hard on him and led to addiction and that led to his death.

    Writing that was clarifying for me: instead, I think addiction was in his nature: the nature that was, admittedly, sensitive and suffering and estranged. But did his dark movie roles send him over the edge, as I implied. Nope. Probably not. Not so much. He was an addict. Now there may be a link to the vaunted “artistic temperament” there. But the specific roles? I’ve decided, post blog post, that probably not so much . . .

  2. Steve MC writes:

    I’ve been doing some research for a piece of fiction, and was rather humbled (or rather, grumbled) to find out that my long-cherished hobby horses were, well, hobbled. I’d heard just one side of the argument and hadn’t bothered to look into it any further.

    This bothered me for some weeks, as fact after fact hit the fan, but then I realized just as you said – that reading of someone totally assured of their views isn’t very interesting. It’s those who question, trip, stumble, and keep going, with a new perspective, and maybe even a bit wiser, who most mirror our own experience. And might actually have something to teach us.