I have been thinking to set myself up for a challenge beginning next week and towards 2018: to write every day. This is something I have been trying to do for months (years?) yet I have not picked up the discipline to do so.
Then I figured the problem with me is this: I like things neat and proper. Which is, isn’t bad per se, but my perfectionist tendency often get in my way. With years working in tech, I should have known to ship things fast and improvise as it goes — but I like things neat and proper way too much. I am known — and have always been a butt of a joke to my friends — to give away an entirely new notebook if I don’t like my handwriting in the first few pages.
Recently, I came across a blog post of Austin Kleon’s on his notes on daily blogging. Austin’s blog is one of the few blogs I have been frequenting, and since October 1st this year he has taken up the habit of daily blogging. It seems trivial to others, but a big scare to me! I really like the idea he elaborated on stock and flow:
As Robin Sloan wrote seven years ago: flow is the feed (“It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.”) and stock is the durable stuff (“It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.”)
The secret is again: find the signal amidst the noise.
So that’s settled.
So how do I solve the problem of me liking things way too neat and proper, yet ship some amount of writing every day? I recognised I am also obsessed about lists way too much, which could relate to things being neat and properly organised. I found the answer again in one of Austin’s blog post: keep a logbook. It’s something quick that I can do every morning under an hour, yet I can make it neat and proper the way I like it.
So that’s another thing settled.
Last thing: if you recall, as someone who is not properly in academia and also currently is taking a break from tech industry (where I was in for 12 years or so), I have been told my writing is too scholarly for a practitioner and too loose for academia, and that’s something I have been struggling too lately: figuring out the right kind of writing for my audience. It reminded me of this beautiful writing of Maria Popova’s on the hierarchy of good writing, of which, I couldn’t believe someone who writes so beautifully on the subject of writing (and others) still at times would be in a rut with writing itself.
Explainers make information clear and comprehensible. Good textbooks are the work of good explainers.
Elucidators go beyond explanation and into illumination — they transmute information into understanding by revealing the interconnectedness of the universe and integrating various bits of knowledge into a larger framework of comprehension. At their best, they embody what pioneering biochemist Erwin Chargaff addressed in his beautiful 1978 meditation on the poetics of curiosity, in which he discussed the crucial difference between explanation and understanding.
Enchanters do all of the above, but go beyond the realm of knowledge and into the realm of wisdom. They don’t work merely toward superior levels of understanding, but toward a wholly different order of meaning — an embodiment of Schopenhauer’s famous distinction between talent and genius, in which he asserted that talent hits a target no one else can hit, whereas genius hits a target no one else can see.
So there’s that for me for 2018 onwards: find the signal amidst the noise, write something every day and work towards becoming an enchanter.