I don’t blog often. The last time I wrote a post was 3 months ago, in August. When I started this blog I had intended to stick to a regular writing schedule, but clearly that’s not how things turned out. I’m very proud of the articles I’ve written here so far, and I let myself get trapped into thinking that each post must be better than the last. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say recently — on the contrary, I’ve had a number of topics bouncing around in my head and I’ve even written down quick outlines and notes for them.
The problem is that at the end of the day I have trouble organizing my thoughts into prose. Written language is so much more subtle than spoken language. I’m much more fluid when speaking to someone (especially if there’s a pint of beer in my hand). I thought of recording a podcast and instantly rejected the idea on the grounds that since I never listen to podcasts, I couldn’t reasonably expect anyone to listen to mine. Writing it is, then.
When I read 7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School I realized I was stuck on Bad Habit #2: “Expecting someone to hand you a writing prompt.” No one is going to tell me what I should be writing about, so I can’t keep bouncing around ideas until someone says “Okay, Skrud, I want to hear about x.” The hardest part about writing is figuring out what the hell I want to say. Once I know what I want to say the words flow naturally, but being indecisive about what I want to say is my writer’s block.
In a way, this is a lot like programming. I’ve always felt that 90% of the effort that goes into programming is just figuring out what it is you want to program. When faced with a particular problem to solve, the bulk of the work is solving it. Translating that solution into code is trivial by comparison. As I become more experienced in the art of programming, solutions become more obvious. Being familiar with the systems I work on allows to make quick assumptions that help me hone in on the problem areas much sooner.
With writing, I often find myself stuck in the what the hell is it I want to write-phase during which I stare at a blank page for uncomfortably long periods of time. Or worse, I get the ideas criss-crossed in my head and start going off on several tangents, failing to combine everything into a cohesive idea. In programming, this is akin to writing brand new APIs and modifying miscellaneous libraries instead of focusing on the problem at hand.
If experience in programming makes solving programming problems easier, then experience in writing should make the writing process easier. The more I do it, the more naturally and easily I’ll be able to put my thoughts into words. In other words, if I want to write more, I need to write more. Duh.