Do what you can

I was watching Extra Credits’ video about making your first game and I thought how closely it mapped to my experience trying to write blog posts. Game creators often try to build big games, get overwhelmed, and never end up publishing. I tried to write polished blog posts, got overwhelmed, and never ended up publishing anything. The video also made me curious if I could follow the video’s advice to be realistic about my own capabilities in order to write more often.

How is my blog writing journey similar to a game creator?

Game creators often go into a project with a grand idea, like creating a realistic 3D shooter. While working, they run into roadblocks that feel insurmountable, obsess over details that have no impact on the final product, and progress slows. Eventually, they stop making a game. I started my blog by trying to write high-quality posts that are attention grabbing, interesting, and useful to the reader. I’ve received praise for my writing in the past, mostly from my parents in retrospect, and I feel like I’m a smart person, so I believed I could write brilliant articles, given enough time. If I just followed my writing process, every article I wrote could be brilliant. My first draft would involve me brain dumping everything in my head onto a page so I didn’t lose anything. Then, I would search the brain dump for a compelling topic. Once I found one, I would go through several edits to create an article. Over the years, I did many brain dumps, but I never actually got past that first draft stage. I haven’t published a single new blog post since my first one. After writing the first draft, I would rarely edit and when I did revisit a draft, I would obsess over titles, fact-checking, and word choice and I would feel the need to change topics. I would get caught up fiddling with my post and never publish.

Weird, personal strategies I’m going to try

In order to publish more often, I’ll look at my current resources, skills, and limits, and make it as easy as possible to publish often, even my conclusions look strange. When I look at my current resources, skills, and limits, I seem strange to me. First, I’m most often in the mood to write after midnight. My thoughts flow out like water around this time. If I’m serious about writing, I might want to adopt a non-standard sleep schedule where I sleep at 10pm, wake after midnight to write, then I sleep again from 3am to 9am. Second, I’ve never gone back and edited an article, so I might want to do everything in a single session. In the past, I’ve tried making a game a day and I was most successful when I took on projects I could finish in one afternoon. For me, this means cutting everything that can take a long time out of the writing process. That means ignore the title, no topic changes, stay on topic, write from memory, write the tangent thoughts that will inevitably pop up in a separate file, and do minimal editing. Minimal editing feels wrong to me since I’ve read that editing is writing and I’ve internalized that idea, but I currently don’t have the habits or mindset to edit, so I shouldn’t do it in this point in my writing career. Writing from memory also feels wrong to me since I hate spreading misinformation, but I can’t get caught up researching so researching has to go. Perhaps the essay writing process ingrained in me from school that involves several drafts and extensive fact-checking has been ingrained in me more than I knew. Whatever the reason, from this point on I’m going to figure out the writing process that works for me and I’m publishing this post.

Why am I so focused on publishing instead of polishing?

You might be confused why I’m focused on publishing anything, regardless of quality, instead of figuring out how to get into the habit of editing. Choosing to focus on publishing often with little regard for quality felt like the right way forward because of another personal belief of mine. I have a story about a particular ceramics teacher stuck in my head. The ceramics teacher decided to experiment and graded half the students by weight and graded half the class by quality. The ceramics students who were graded by weight produced the most and improved a lot. Each time they made a new piece, they’d learn a bit more and apply what they learned to the next piece. They would see which parts of the process were important and which parts of the process could be ignored. They kept their motivation because they could show off their completed projects and could discuss their work with their peers. The ceramics students who were graded by quality made barely anything and improved little. They obsessed over unimportant details because they didn’t know which details were important. They struggled for weeks theorizing with no feedback. The lesson being that it’s more valuable to complete many projects than try to perfect a single project.

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