January 21, 2008

Bulk view


I didn’t write 1500 words today. I spent most of the evening trying to remove words. Instead of writing new material for my chapter on taking notes, I edited the first 10 pages of my previous chapter on task management.

I like editing. I can read what I want to say, and all I have to do is figure out how to say it better. I translate from something that I understand to something that other people might understand. It helps to throw away this abstract idea of "people" and write for specific people I know. I like thinking of a few other geek girls who are also interested in Emacs, like Clair and Quinn. How would I explain Emacs task management in a way that would help my friends go, "Aha! Now I see it!"? When I get the technical stuff nailed, I cut and tweak until it sounds like something I’d actually say to them.

Editing is work, but it’s good work. This is what’s going to make me a good writer: deliberate practice. I can feel the changes in the text. I think there are much better ways to say things in the way I say them right now. I don’t know what those ways are yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out. This is not to say that I’ll spend the next few decades obsessively polishing a single chapter. This book is a starting point, not the end, and I like writing and learning too much to get stuck.

I’d still like to make it to my self-imposed deadline of January 31 for this chapter, but sprinting towards that deadline would be less effective than deliberately practicing writing, deliberately trimming and polishing my previous work until I get a sense of what it means to write.

On second thought…

On second thought, the best way to go about this isn’t just another writing sprint. After all, writing is such a small part of writing. Editing is so much more important. What I really need to do to take advantage of the support that I can get from my editor is to go back and start incorporating suggestions he made into the previous chapter. Then I’ll get a better sense of what a good chapter looks like, feels like. If nothing else, then I’ll have a good chapter to look at and say, hey, I can actually write stuff like that.