You would think that after several days of writing, it would become easier. I have been writing quite a bit of late, not just for Lent and yet, I stare at an empty page with nothing much to put on it I feel. Oh well. Let’s just talk about some random things that are going on.
Jerry Seinfeld said to write every day and Malcolm Gladwell posits that to be good at something, you have to put in 10,000 hours. The key is understanding how many of those 10,000 hours will result in terrible outcomes whether it’s golf, or writing or basket weaving. It seems in the creative world, most things get thrown away and forgotten. All we see are the end results and think genius has occurred when in fact, it’s more like product development where slowly, over time and hard work, a genius is born. This idea of art as product development is intriguing to me as I think of software development, my career of choice, as largely product development as well. We’re called engineers in the job applications and titles but in my experience, engineering is building a bridge or finding oil in shale. Software engineering is more like herding cats unless you’re working on the space shuttle and precious few of us are doing that.
It’s always enlightening to me how many software developers are also musicians or artists. I think that lends credence to the idea that building software programs is less logic and more feel. This isn’t to say that all software engineers are Justin Bieber at heart. I’ve known plenty who really are engineers in training and in practice and they write some really good code. But lots of what I do on a daily basis has nothing to do with rules and everything to do with heuristics.
Writing is similar in that there are no rules once you get past syntax and spelling that will guarantee either success or fame. You have to find your voice, cliched as that might be and that’s something I’ve always struggled with. That discovery comes from constant work and attention to the craft I would imagine and it’s hard to get there doing things halfway. Being afraid of either success or failure, praise or reprobation will only serve to silence the voice. Write and write and write and just see what happens.
People who don’t write, especially fiction, think that novels and stories come from an idea that the author has, partially formed or not. In fact, many of the best authors just write and see where their characters or circumstances take them. This goes back to the idea of product development, taking a tiny sliver of inspiration and turning it into something great. Most of us get bored or worn out from the effort long before it gets there. Only the dedicated make the leap. And the lucky. But the dedicated seem to have more luck as a general rule. This Lenten challenge I’ve put on myself is going to be helpful in finding out how much dedication there is. I’m spread too thinly in a lot of ways and have been thinking about the different ways my attention is pulled. Might be time to scale back a little but it’s hard to let go of the attachment, the idea that X is important even when you only do it once every blue moon.
No great insights tonight. Just practice. And thinking. More of the same tomorrow on the road to improvement or possibly happiness.