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.