Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

How is an argument like a table?

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Howard S. Becker

Imagine you are doing a woodworking project, perhaps making a table. Fortunately, you needn’t make all the parts yourself. Some are standard sizes and shapes—lengths of two by four, for instance—available at any lumberyard. Some have already been designed and made by other people—drawer pulls and turned legs. All you have to do is fit them into the places you left for them, knowing they were available. You want to make an argument instead of a table. You have created some of the argument yourself, perhaps on the basis of new data or information you have collected. But you needn’t invent the whole thing. Other people have worked on your problems or problems related to it, and have made some of the pieces you need. You just have to fit them in where they belong. Like the woodworker, you leave space, when you make your portion of the argument, for the other parts you know you can get. You do that, that is, if you know that they are there to use. And that’s one good reason to know the literature: so that you will know the pieces are available and not waste time doing what has already been done.

Howard S. Becker

Written by nevalalee

March 9, 2013 at 9:50 am

Posted in Quote of the Day, Writing

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