>“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
(the audio is also nice because, well, it's Ira) https://vimeo.com/24715531
Some artists will often think their previous works are subpar, the same goes for writing and so on, but it's worth considering that those admiring it have tastes both more and less developed than your own so you can't possibly say "no one would think this is good". I'm not sure if that made as much as sense as it does in my head.
I guess the programming analogy is wanting to delete old blog posts about basic starter issues. They seem obvious in hindsight but, presuming they're timeless issues, someone else may find it useful.
In the recent times, I have come across many discussions to realize that I have written about that very topic. The post I considered worthless is immediately relevant. And that's how your writing arsenal works. It takes time, but you realize that what you wrote was important.
To sum it up: Don't seek rewards, just write. You'll get better at it, too (almost unknowingly)
It is a virtuous cycle that starts with writing shitty things :)
To end with a shameless plug, I am writing a newsletter about writing. Maybe it is useful for you: https://writingfordevelopers.substack.com/
I eventually created a dedicated page on my personal website. It's technically public, but I don't link to it from anywhere else on the website. It's just a way for me to practice writing and reflection without the pressure of thinking about an audience (besides myself).
This is the page, for anyone who might be interested: https://www.dannyguo.com/friction/
I run into a lot of people with the same situation as you and I always tell them to just write about whatever gets them putting words down and out there. Programming problems, pearls, learnings, video games, food, whatever floats your boat.
Ultimately almost no one will read it save for one person who runs into the exact same issue or loves the same exact dish at the restaurant you love. Fear of being judged shouldn't stop you.
In the past year I wrote a kids sci-fi novel. Well, I finished the draft, and I’ve been editing it the past few months.
It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years, but only finally got the ‘kick’ when I quit my job last Feb and had 3 months of paid garden leave (awesome, right) before I could start the new job.
Perfect time to write my novel.
I wound up only finishing half of it by the time I started the new job. With its long hours, I was worried I might not get to finish my story. But I have a daily commute, and made it my business to do some writing each way. About 30-40 minutes on the train, it was my dedicated time. My time to escape from everything else and immerse myself into my story.
It worked out great, somehow knowing this was my only window to do it gave me the motivation to keep it up.
And I finished it!! Sometimes, on a good day, when I had an idea how the scene would play out, I could get 2000 words. Rare but it happened. The early days I could just about do 500 words, but later on 500-1000 was my usual.
Some days I just couldn’t get past a couple sentences. Bad days happen. Accept it.
But “Just write” is great advice.
If you’re stuck on a scene, skip it and go to the next one. But keep putting down words.
If you don’t know how to open your book, start a couple chapters in, somewhere you know what will happen.
Most of the time I had no idea how a chapter would work out, what would happen beyond some vague notions. But eventually things fall into place. Characters act of their own volition, out of my control.
Editing, now, that’s a whole different beast. I feel my productivity has dropped dramatically and I’ve been stuck in perma-edit mode.
Hope it to make a few final tweaks and send it out to some beta readers.
Anyway, a long stream-of-conscious post agreeing with putting down words. (Cutting them out is harder)
I only started with Twitter a couple months ago. And soon found there are regular writing prompts. Eg - #1LineWed and #SciFiFri.
These usually have a theme, eg today’s #TuesLine was “Open”. So either I try to find a relevant line from my Work In Progress, or make one up. But what’s great is the 280 char limit, it forces you to think carefully about sentence structure and word choice.
I spent about 15 mins on the train this morning rearranging the line from my book (only for the Twitter message, not rearranging in my actual story) because it didn’t quite fit. And I still don’t like what I wound up with.
But it’s great practice for crafting sentences. And seeing how other amateur and experienced authors alike do these same challenges.
I've wanted to start writing for a while but I never knew what to write about from a technical perspective. Then I realized there's a ton of soft skills I've learned over the years that have helped me advance my software engineering career that I could write about and not have to worry about publishing code that contains bugs or that will get critiqued to no end.
I just started writing and figured that maybe someone would find it useful. I started a newsletter and have been promoting it here and there and it's been growing every week. Take a look and subscribe if you'd like!
It's much easier to clean up and adjust (tens of) thousands of words consisting of raw consciousness, than it is to write just 500 words of pure perfection.
It's not all nonsense, of course, but it's a stream of information just being beamed at the screen (via my fingers.) Even this very comment was written like this: just smash out how I feel and then go back and refine it, but not too much, because it's just a comment.
I find bullet points help too.
Instead of writing in paragraphs or even simple sentences, I find bullet points remove all the barriers of getting information on to the page/screen, because formatting isn't even a concern. Once you have enough points, expand them with sub-points and keep going.
Eventually turn those bullet points into prose and fly my pretty, fly :-)
It's good to see someone else using bullet points.
I start with bullet points of whatever is coming to mind at the time. I don't worry about punctuation but I do pay attention to what my mind is trying to do to get me to stop writing (you're too tired to write! this won't make sense! you'll be editing this forever! ...etc).
Just keep writing. Keep writing until your thoughts are out.
Just keep going and forget the rules. Dumb your mind on the page and clean it up later.
I made a sketch on bitcoin a few months ago and thought it would go nowhere, and a few Instagram pages picked up on it and posted it. I got some 10-20k views. I had no expectation for it, but I made the video because I thought it would be cool.
and a follow up => "Followup to free food that isn't free" => https://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/01/23/gfood/
I do remember something else she posted about Google that blew up on HN, don't remember and can't seem to locate it on her blog.
http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2013/03/14/som/ (perhaps also about another companies, but seems Google inspired)
There are probably others -- those are just the ones I remember that seem "Googley" to me.