Why I’m Blooking
Yesterday being my 100th Overcoming Bias post, it seems an opportune time to answer a commenter’s question: Why am I posting?
For a long time I’ve suffered from writer’s molasses. Like writer’s block, only instead of not writing, I write very slooowly. At least when it comes to writing Documents—papers, book chapters, website material. If I haven’t published a hundred papers, it’s not for lack of a hundred ideas, but because writing one paper—at my current pace—takes four months full time. I sometimes wonder if I could become a respectable academic if I wrote at a respectable pace.
Oddly enough, I can write most emails around as fast as I type. Such disorders are hard to self-diagnose, but I suspect that part of the problem is that on Documents I repeatedly reread and tweak material I’ve already written, instead of writing new material. James Hogan (an SF author) once told me that he was more productive on a typewriter than a word processor, because the typewriter prevented him from tweaking until the second draft.
A blook is a collection of blog posts that have been edited into a book. Logically, then, publishing a book as a series of blog posts ought to be known as “blooking”.
It would be more precise to say that I’m generating raw material to be edited into a book, and collecting some feedback along the way. I make no promises for this project. (I hate promising anything unless I have already done it.) The first part of the plan, generating the raw material as blog posts, has proceeded at a respectable pace so far. Will I be able to edit the posts into chapters, so long as all the raw material is there? Will I be able to generate all the raw material, or will the project, ahem, “blog down”?
In August I decided that I was going to write one blog post per day for Overcoming Bias. This challenge began to hone my writing speed somewhat—for example, I would look at the clock and try not to take longer than an hour… or three hours… but nonetheless I began to feel the need to shove the post out the door instead of perfecting it further. This is necessary and proper.
Near the end of August, I faced a new challenge—I also had to prepare two talks for the Singularity Summit 2007 (Sep 8-9). Those were actual Documents. I knew, from previous experience, that I couldn’t possibly prepare the two talks and also keep up the pace of blogging on Overcoming Bias. Blogging was using up all my writing energy already—I have only a limited supply of words per day. If I overreach one day’s budget I can’t write at all the next day. So (I knew) I would have to temporarily stop blogging and resume after the Summit.
And then I said to myself, Hey, if I never try to do anything “impossible”, I’ll never grow.
I decided I would keep up the pace on Overcoming Bias while simultaneously writing my two Summit talks. Tsuyoku naritai!
I lost sleep, and skipped exercise. But I did it. I’ll remember that the next time I’m thinking of trying something impossible.