I Will Write More 📔
Dec 30, 2022 by Andrew Lee
As this year draws to a close, I’ve been spending some time in self-reflection. This year has been filled with change for me. I got married to an amazing girl, decided to pursue a Master’s degree, made some new friends, spent plenty of good times with my family, and worked on some interesting projects with interesting people. All in all, I am happy and grateful for life right now and I’m excited about my trajectory.
Happy as I am, the new year is always a great time to refocus my goals and select new habits. Next year, I want to write more. I’m aiming for at least 500 words per day.
The “Why” ❓
As a decently outgoing person face-to-face, I’m awfully quiet on the internet. I’m not sure how rare that is, and frankly, it’d be difficult to tell even if it is common since so many of us wouldn’t be saying much!
Anyhow, I consume internet content in many forms. Papers, social media feeds, videos, articles, tutorials, books (more rarely than I’d like), you name it. I feel mostly okay with the way I filter the content that I consume. I’ll be making some tweaks, but I think I’ve cultivated a lot of interesting, useful knowledge on the internet this year.
However, my brain feels like it’s become very intake-optimized at the expense of creativity. I’m still a student so information absorption velocity and pattern matching are the keys to the game if you want to have any free time in a busy school schedule. The problem is that I’m not getting much better at unprompted creative work. Observing problems and solving them, coming up with ideas and executing… those opportunities come few and far between in the university classroom. I don’t put blame on anyone in particular for that; I have learned a ton from my professors and I’ve loved lots of my classes. But I’ve decided it’s time to take my creative development into my own hands and I’m starting with writing.
Contrary to my meager blogging history, I do have thoughts worth blogging about from time to time, but I almost never write anything up and I wish I did. I’d like to get my voice out on the internet a little more, but I keep holding myself back. Let’s debug my thought process!
Debugging My Brain 👨💻
Here are the thought-steps my brain tends to go through before almost inevitably deciding to nix the writing. Feel free to make mental breakpoints on where I go wrong, I’m sure you’ll see some issues. Let’s go!
We start with an idea. “Maybe I could write something about that,” I think to myself.
Then I ask some questions:
1. Is this valuable? 💎
There is plenty of garbage pumped out on the internet. Spend too long on hackernews and you’ll have no trouble finding some ;) And with chatGPT available and its progeny not too far behind, there’ll be no shortage of filler content available on the web for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to be another source of disposable, low-value fluff. I’m not trying to be some kind of super-blogger, but I’d love to write stuff that inspires, intrigues, or informs by some marginal amount. I’m not trying to be Dan Luu, but even a fleeting thought bubble from you saying “hmm” as you read would be great in my eyes.
Now that I’ve set up this quality standard to surpass, I’ve got some pressure on my writing. Whatever I’m writing has to be good! Most often, my idea is filtered out of the funnel here. It wasn’t a good enough thought, or I didn’t think that I would be able to express it in a meaningful way. But if my idea passes this filter level, it’s on to…
2. Is this not already written? ✍️
The world is massive. The internet is vast. And there are people like Chris Rackauckas who may be 10x smarter than me (seriously, read his accolades, it’s humbling). Who am I to say something meaningful? Especially now, as I’m only a student and early in my career! Someone else smarter than me has surely already thought of this idea, and probably written this down. I’ll take a look and after a quick search, if somebody indeed has written about this thing (likely), the blog idea is on the chopping block. Otherwise…
3. Is there time? 🕰
I’m a busy student trying to make ends meet with work, school, family, friends, and all the other commitments in my life. Do I have the time for this? Even if I do, is this the way I want to spend my free time? Generally, there’s something higher priority for me to be doing, and if this blog post is going to soak up a lot of my mental energy, I may not have the reserves for everything else I’ve got to do.
4. Write that blog! ✨
If the stars align and the idea makes it through all the filters, I can execute on it and have a nice new blog post. But this only happens once in a blue moon. Maybe less ;)
The process looks something like this:
Look at that output volume… how paltry!
Clearly, my mental filters have been too restrictive to let me write much of anything. I’m too worried about the product that I don’t produce, and because of that, I don’t get any better at producing. That’s no good!
With my new goal in mind of writing more, how can we reengineer this process?
Rethinking the Process 🧠
For now, let’s take the reader out of the picture. Sorry dear reader, but the pressure to deliver something of quality to you can be paralyzing up front! Disregarding any type of audience, I’m going to be selfish about these blogs. I’ll write stuff up when it sounds interesting to me.
- Would this be something I would like to learn more about?
- Would this be fun to write about?
- Would this help me grow?
By leaving space for more blogging, I’m allowing more ideas to percolate and I’ll be writing a whole lot more. I’ll have plenty of content written up just because I’ve set out to do it, written in a tone for a public audience but with no pressure to perform for anyone. So maybe the new process looks something like this:
With a written private post in hand, I can run my little filter on it. Is it valuable? Does it not already exist? If it makes it through, then I’ll refine for public viewership and post! Plenty of what I write won’t see the light of day, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’ll still be fulfilling for me and help me learn to write better. Most importantly, the volume of blog posts that do make it out to the world will be much greater and hopefully of increasingly high quality.
So that’s one of my big goals this year. Thanks for coming on this little brain journey with me on the “why”, where I go wrong, and what I’m going to do differently this year to write more. Hopefully you’ll be reading more from me soon! Feel free to hold me to it ;)