Questioning Polemics

Some months ago someone made an offhand comment about my natural inclination towards polemics which made me seriously rethink the nature of my blogging and online interaction, and I’ve certainly made a concerted effort to be more proactive, and less reactionary in what I write about; but I’ve been musing over a couple of things.

The first thing is that I’ve noticed that a tend to write better when I’m writing polemically. I find that I have more focus and can structure a piece better. I find that I tend to run with suggestions much more easily than coming up with original ideas, which suits me fine as a performer, I have to say – I love working with directors and musicians who give me things to play with. Give me props and I’ll improvise well, give me a blank stage and I struggle and gravitate towards the generic.

The second thing is that I’ve started to question my knee-jerk assumption that polemics is necessarily a bad thing. Of course, any style or approach can be bad in the wrong contexts or if taken too far, but I’m starting to think about the place of polemics in my writing, and not being worried about writing in that style, but harnessing it somehow. Where I certainly see an issue is if one were to be polemic for the sake of it, which is perhaps simply just being contrarian and argumentative, and in the context of the original comment, that was very likely the case! The other side is my desire to write more creatively and not necessarily cerebrally, which I guess is the natural environment of polemical writing. My fear there, however, is that I’ll just sound pretentious, which brings me back to the issue of writing in a style that comes naturally.

Do you think there’s value in polemic writing?


What do you think?