Posts tagged 'writing'
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. (Matthew 25:29)
Yesterday I was looking up an old contact (who is a lot like me, but much further along, and with enough money to not have to care), and the memories came back in a rush. It's hard to sum up what anything is, what any experience is like to people who aren't you, but I can mention one thing, the thing that I needed to read.
In this essay, he talks about how he writes. He has an easy writing style, and apparently people come to him and ask him how he writes so well. His response is that he deliberately writes what is easy and approachable (e.g. that which he knows a lot about), and in time the other things he wants to write get easier. He tackles those in their own time, once he has enough practice/warm up/etc. under his belt for those to be easy to write.
Like others, I write darlings, and it's hard for me to kill my darlings. It's pleasing to me that when others proofread my work, they point out problem points in the same places I see them ("Oh, this is no good… I'll leave it in for now, though…" "Yeah, this is no good, you should change this/take it out/jump in a lake"). That's not to say that I always know how something needs to be changed, only that I recognize weak spots.
Anyway, all this comes together into some thoughts about skill generation in general. Writing and graphic design and programming aren't so different in many ways, ways that could fill a book, which is not particularly surprising given my philosophy of "everything is everything". In keeping with the spirit of this entry, though, I'll point out that when you stumble in your craft, the best thing to do is keep working on something.
Admittedly, you will need time to let your brain process. When you make a typo and overlook it for an hour straight, that's usually a sign that you need to do something else, like run on the treadmill for an hour, drink heavily, and pass out. (By morning, all your problems will be much shallower.) There is a route to maximal learning and maximal skill development, and it doesn't typically involve doing the same dumb thing until you're too tired to do anything right, and by the way, you've just spent an hour anti-training by practicing bad habits.
It's been a long couple days, for no particularly good reason. I've actually made a lot of important progress—note here that I'm not saying a lot of progress, in an absolute sense—in getting my head screwed on straight and doing important work. I talked to a lot of people, in different contexts, and these low time, high value conversations are really great for figuring out what I want, and need.
I started sketching out a book that I want to write in parallel with the book I need to write (because my battery died and I had a long train trip, oddly). I think this book will feed into the book I've been trying to write for the better part of three years, if I can make some headway on it. Meanwhile, I have my eyes on a half dozen pet projects that can help strengthen my portfolio. None of them are small enough to sink my teeth into at the moment, and none of them are dire, but like writing, the act of thinking of pet projects leads to thinking of more pet projects. I still need to figure out how to have a brainstorming repository, since every time I start something it all just gets more fragmented, but that should come in time.
Ugh. In other news, I'm wrestling with some asset pipeline issues with heroku, and I'm about to tear my hair out. It's distracting me, and thus I'm not able to give enough attention to writing this. I know there's more I wanted to write, but I have a hard deadline tonight so I'll have to pick this up later, if I can find the track again.
I have to write for the book I owe in October starting soon, so I've been thinking more about writing in general and how things are communicated. (Perhaps this could be considered semiotic thought?)
The urge to try to tackle a different book has resurged, especially now that I'm writing here without the threat of fine. Writing is comforting; however, this style of writing is a bit too unrefined and "work avoidance" to really lead anywhere. If nothing else, the medium format stuff seems to be a good lead in to starting work, and getting into a good groove. I wonder if other people feel the same way, and that's why some people get to the office early and work on email?
(As a sidenote, perhaps that's reason enough to get out of bed early, other than the cat crying. Maybe I can find something to write about in a longer format and see what happens to my motivation/well-being.)
The segue here is that Tommy asked me for a progress update, and I described to him some of my struggles, and he was pretty good at reassuring me that I'm on the right path. But what helped, and is helping, most, are the short phrases—remember, when you came here, you were already above the top 95%; what's more important than the company is the team you'll be working with, etc.
I try to collect little clippings and reminders of things and hold on to them until they stick with me. This is one of my lingering problems, actually: getting all the clustered information out of my head and into a format where I can manipulate it. I was actually considering exploring some different technologies in order to make a Scrivener knock-off, because the plethora of similar tools never seem to quite mesh up with my needs, but I know that that's probably another blind alley. If I could figure out the interaction model or something, maybe it'd be easier, but it certainly wouldn't be trivial by any means.
It's surprising how much productive work relies around having the right information available in the right format and being able to manipulate it in an easy manner. This is probably the central problem of software, in short: while maybe 90% of apps boil down to CRUD, making interactions painless and contextually meaningful is the where interesting work happens.
There's a link here, though: getting the right "core idea" matters as much in writing as it does in software (or mathematical proofs, or… so many things). In most mental work, there's some foundational piece that helps you stay on track, and helps the audience get in tune with you. Good writing will have a rhythm, where a long description will build to a purpose, or a witty or touching statement, and that will stick with people. Good software has a clear purpose, I think, and should be similarly scrutable to an audience.