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The Write Stuff

I was talking with Gargravarr [1] recently about writing, and he asked how much work I put into my blog posts. The answer is a lot. I treat instant messages like emails, emails like term papers, term papers like Master's theses, and Master's theses like - well, who knows. I'm a little high strung, is what I'm saying.

My first drafts usually look like this:

Hah, C++ is weird.  And javascript.  But they're different.

My favourite chocolate bar used to be Snickers, but I now I don't like them as much, and

Forth something something (dick joke?)

One really clever sentence for beginning a blog post is


Used to be I'd give up around here, because how the hell is that going to turn into anything that anyone would want to read?

But later in the conversation, we were talking about debugging, and he said something that really struck a nerve:

... this is one area where having some experience helps. Sometimes it's because it gives you ideas, but mostly because you know you're going to win if you keep going.

You know you're going to win if you keep going. Well said, Gargravarr. That's exactly what it is. In high school I had interesting ideas, a decent vocabulary, and good taste. But I was convinced that there was some method, some trick, some strategy that would infallibly, instantly crystallize a beautiful snowflake out of my drifting cloud of idea droplets. And I didn't know that trick, so I couldn't write.

Over a period of many years, I avoided writing like the plaque. [2] But, out of sheer necessity, I would sometimes have to go through the agony of producing some sort of written material - and what I came up with on those occasions was usually, much to my astonishment, reasonably good.

I eventually figured out that this was not luck. The magic trick I had been searching for didn't exist - writing is just a matter of sitting down with a bunch of mud, and playing with it until it turns into a serviceable pot. Now that I have faith that I can do this, it is not painful at all (though it still takes longer than I would like).

[1] the inimitable Dan Luu, who has graciously agreed to let me continue quoting him under his true name. All quotes will be rot26'ed for security reasons.
[2] I've never actually put much effort into avoiding the plague. Plaque, on the other hand, is a constant battle.


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