Author’s Note: I’m currently in the process of migrating old blog posts to this new system. That may mean some links, syntax highlighting, and other details are broken or missing temporarily. Sorry for the inconvenience!
I’ve been having a hard time making myself write these past few days. It’s frustrating because I think of writing as one of those keystone habits. If I can just force myself to sit down and spend the time every day, good things will magically happen. There are a few habits that in my experience have seemed to work like that. Going on walks, waking up early, and meditation come to mind. I don’t try to do these things with a particular goal in mind. But they seem to improve the other things in my life by a small amount.
My approach to writing this year is the same. I’m not trying to write good things. I’m not trying to write a certain amount. I’m just trying to write for an hour each day. Tracking input, rather than output.
It’s not a block
Starting this series of posts off was relatively easy. I wanted to explore creating the site itself, which made for a natural “Okay, well now we have to talk about X” topic jumping-off point. And okay, half of my writing time was really spent writing code for the site. But things haven’t really changed there. We’ve still got plenty of stuff to implement and talk about:
- Adding a commenting system
- Talking about email and mailing lists, and how server trust may mean we can’t really roll our own on that front
- Talking about various forms of analytics, and seeing how far we can get by just rolling our own on that front
- Organizing these posts! It’s probably time to move beyond this flat directory structure. But why are things organized the way they are in the first place?
- RSS! We definitely need ourselves some good ol’ RSS!
Plenty of code to write, plenty of articles about code to write, plenty of rants about articles about code to write. So that’s not what’s holding me back.
Have you ever been called pretentious? It’s probably stuck with you. It’s a weird kind of insult, in a separate category from “fat”, “stupid”, “lazy”. It’s the suggestion that not only do you have a deep character flaw, but that you have a character flaw that’s actively hostile to everyone else around you. Not just “you should feel bad”, but “you should feel bad for making everyone else feel bad”.
I was kinda pretentious as a kid. I probably still am (though I’d like to hope a little less so).
It makes me not want to write. It makes me want to dumb-down my writing. It makes me not want to make things. It makes me want to self-sabotage the things I do make. It’s preferable to make something bad that lets others feel superior, than to create something great and make others feel inferior.
(Though to even suggest that I could create something capable of making others feel inferior is the height of hubris. I apologize. This subject is a minefield!)
The categorical imperative
Kant’s idea “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” applies here.
Should Lin-Manuel Miranda stop creating because other composers will feel jealous? Everything he does is so clever and heartfelt and I’m sure many people resent not just his success but his talent and genius. Obviously not. We can’t will that humity-at-the-expense-of-art become a universal law. We’d lose everything that gives meaning to the human experience.
So alright, it’s ridiculous. Make stuff that will go over the heads of some. Try for the best thing you can. Let people rise up to meet you.
But knowing that and feeling it are very different things.
Auditions and interviews
When you audition for a role, or interview for a job (identical experiences, really), you walk in with confidence. You smile and shake the interviewer’s hand or make pleasantries, or whatever the situation calls for. They point out that your resume is sparse, and you give them your most winning smile and explain all the wonderful things you can do for their company. Or show. I dunno, the double-analogy isn’t really working here. The point is you lie your ass off.
Not with words! Don’t lie with words. But you you wear a confidence that’s authentic, but not honest. And it’s weird, because everybody knows that job interviews are scary. So why should acting confident signal anything other than good pathological lying skills?
I don’t really know. But I think it’s the same skill that lets people create stuff instead of hiding under a humility blanket. Maybe that’s the right approach here?
Tying it all together
This section won’t live up to its header. You’re supposed to write with presumed authority. I struggle with that. You’re supposed to ideally wrap things up with some suggestions. I don’t really have those. But what I have done is gotten my hour of writing in today, and maybe that’s enough. Maybe it’s okay to stumble around a bit. To be aware of the problem and be comfortable (or at least comfortably uncomfortable) with not having a solution. That’s hard for me. But maybe it’s okay.