Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why I (need to) write (more)

For some context on what sparked this, see this excellent post and discussion on Hacker News, (for those so inclined)

The reason I used to blog somewhat regularly is very simple - I found that I could take some half formed thought and flesh it out by writing about it.  Sometimes this would result in something actually useful to  people. Most often, I would just end up 'emptying my head' and think new thoughts.

And then something happened. I got an audience. And comments. And emails.  And controversies, and flames.

All good, because I didn't (and don't) *mostly* care what people thought of anything I wrote (or what people think of me for that matter) .  But there *is* a small element of reactivity and  friction when you know persons X, Y and Z will be reading what you write.

"Hmm is this too harshly worded for friend X. After all he is a big Ruby fan and if I say Ruby is a particularly  brain dead language, would this ruin his day?". And then I have to write stuff twice. First write down what I really want to write, and then go through it with and delete stuff or add more explanatory stuff and cautionary qualifiers and so forth.

I am not the only person facing this. People who are much better at writing than me apparently face this too.

Someone asked Paul Graham (he of the glowing essays fame) on Hacker News

"what's it like to have your every written (or spoken!) word analyzed by a bunch of people? Esp. people that you end up having some form of contact with.

It seems like it would be difficult to just have a public conversation about a topic. Do you think about that much when you write?"

and PG replied to say

"It's pretty grim. I think that's one of the reasons I write fewer essays now.
After I wrote this one, I had to go back and armor it by pre-empting anything I could imagine anyone willfully misunderstanding to use as a weapon in comment threads. The whole of footnote 1 is such armor for example. I essentially anticipated all the "No, what I said was" type comments I'd have had to make on HN and just included them in the essay."

If pg can't escape this fate, I sure can't.

but otoh I am less concerned than pg about whether someone mis-understands me etc because, I am (comparitively) not famous,  and I am not writing essays just spewing out (comparitively) unpolished *blog posts*. I could deal with misunderstandings just fine.

What I found harder to deal with was -- Twitter.

Once I started tweeting regularly, I found I could just try to distill whatever I was thinking about and just tweet about it. 140 characters is pretty good as a constraint. And since I regularly purge my twitter following of idots and nutcases, I am fairly sure I can convey exactly what I want to, and most people following me would understand (and if not clarifications are just  1 < n <   3  * 140 character tweets away.

But as good as twitter is, 140 character tweets aren't as good as multi paragraph blog posts to *explore ideas* (vs expressing their seed forms concisely). My writing has suffered, though like riding a bicycle it should come back pretty fast, and then I'll go around improving it.

The goal of my writing remains the same. I write to explore thoughts and ideas and 'empty me head'. No more. No less. 

One thing I am doing differently this time is to pay even less attention than usual to comments and reactions, and not bother clarifying what precise shade of  meaning I intended to convey and so forth. This is just me writing a letter  to a friend every  other week or so. It just takes the form of a blog post other people can read.

And so here goes.

I'm back.


sunayana said...

Yay :)

Anup said...

I think I appreciate your posts because they are honest. I am glad you are going to post more. A lot of people are looking forward to it, Im sure. Isnt there someone who said that no one has a right to "not" be offended? Anyways - Good luck, and looking forward to your posts.