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Write It Now

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The original post #

note from October 5, 2021: This was typed up/published in about 20 minutes, took 2x as long as I wish it had. I could make it 10x better with another hour of work, but I only have 20 minutes.

I’m a fan of “conceptual frameworks”

This concept has been important to me:


I’ve referenced it, almost apologetically, in a few other things I’ve written recently.

Usually I’ve just slapped it into an email or linked from another blog post, as a bit of an “i’m sorry” for how much work I might demand from the reader, or how unpleasant or confusing what I’m writing might be.

I feel like I often self-censure in an attempt to make something “better” than it is, and in doing so, fall off the back of this curve. (or I let vague concerns about quality/execution/time delay me from writing anything, ever)

I will reference this page regularly, in some ways to act as a defense against some very obvious criticisms. IMO, I’d rather throw 10 things as the wall quickly in a week, instead of 1 thing every other week.

If I propose something that sparks “controversy”, however that is defined, I’ll gladly cross that bridge (or burn it, if need be) when I get there.

If you’re a software developer, and use Github, you are welcome to leave a comment below (the link takes you to a comment on a dedicated Github Issue page:, or on any page around here with this link. I added this comments thing only recently, and still have not scripted an API call to auto-generate a new github issue when I write a new post. So… I just don’t bother, at least some of the time.

Here’s other things I’ve written along this vein:

Read around the internet, viewed as permission/empathy:

Updates to this post #

2022-06-15 #

I periodically re-visit and update things I’ve written in the past. This post is one of them. Sometimes I modify my writing substantially - it’s simply text files in a git repository, therefore all of what you see around here could be considered in some various form of draft.

I’ve considered adding links to every page on my website that say “click here to see prior versions of this file”. I perceive a feeling of some obligation to the reader to note every time there’s been an edit, or at least some of the time when I might edit things. But obviously fixing typos doesn’t need to be called out in detail.

Additionally, it’s sometimes fun to bury hot takes in walls of text. For example, does the following text seem sort of dry, and academic to you? It’s intentional, if it does:

In The Slaughter of Cities, the author tells a compelling tale of how one ethnic group sucessfully perpetuated ethnic cleansing upon other ethnic groups.

It’s passive voice, it’s just a link to a goodreads page for a book. It doesn’t sound as provocative as it otherwise could. So if it does/does not get the intended result, one could turn it up or down a bit. For example, how does this phrasing compare?

In The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing we read the many ways American urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 60’s were run to create ghettos and perpetuate acts of ethnic cleansing. Those people attacked essentially every non-white ethnic group they encountered, and the relevence of all this is very much in the room with us right now, in most ways that matter.’

I find writing to be trivially easy, I find writing well, however defined, to be hard. Does it spark joy? Does it record something in a way that allows someone to save time in the future? A friend recently sent me a whatsapp message that they were googling something and the top google result was an article I wrote, which indeed contained something useful to them Testing Rake Tasks in Rails. Lots around here is technical, I lean hard on ‘software norms’ for all that I do.

Jan 2024 #

Write Faster (

Humans are naturally sense-making, story-telling creatures. We’re wired to explain ourselves and the universe, to ourselves and to each other. We’re naturally ingenious fabulists, shrewd reporters, idiosyncratic word-painters. Basically all of us have this facility.

But this ability disappears when it’s subjected to excessive scrutiny. When we start reflecting at length on what kind of story we should tell, or what kind of writer we should be, we become lost in the sea of data our senses provide us, and lose the brio of playfulness. It’s like how when you think about how you’re walking, you start walking stupid. You’ve just got to trust that you know what you’re doing: that, as a sense-making creature, you will largely make sense.

We can also be our own ‘excessive scrutinizers’. Something like this undoubtedly influences those who describe themselves as perfectionistic.

Something I love hanging out with kids is how easily they embody ‘uninhibited self-expression’. I find it healing and enthusiasm-engendering, because you can take delight in someone else taking delight and interest in their environment, experience, activity.

I’ve noticed, at times, when I simply would imagine an act of spontaneous self-expression, I would pre-emptively shut it down by imagining either vocalizable reactionary criticism or a non-response, a shun, withdrawal. The topics would span from technical (feeling embarrassed about asking something, admitting that I don’t know/couldn’t figure out something) or casual/mundane. (a comment about something in the environment, etc)

So, some of the ‘write it now’ energy I propose you/me capture is something that moves towards a healthy form of ‘uninhibited self-expression’.

Ironically, I can ‘hear’ a criticsm in my mind:

But doesn’t some of the worst parts of the internet seem to typify ‘uninhibited self-expression’?

I think of a quote I’ve heard on the expression of anger. It can be paraphrased as:

Anger is fully ‘valid’, to feel, full stop. Suppressing it, or expecting others to suppress it, is foolish. It’s as natural and healthy as sadness, or joy, or any of the other many things that we feel as people. ‘anger’ becomes a problem if it’s expressed abusively or harmfully towards others, and even in this case the issue isn’t the anger, it’s the abusive expression of it.

Someone who hits when angry doesn’t have an anger problem, they have a hitting/violence problem.

So, if one person is being cruel to someone else, via ‘uninhibited self-expression’, the problem is not the uninhibited self-expression, it’s the cruelty.

Here’s the last thing - I think good uninhibited self-expression is best experienced when you know whoever you’re expressing to feels similarly about such things. Someone needs to point towards you something that feels like a steady-enough message of ‘you are fundamentally acceptable to me, as are the ways you move through the world’. This feels like a high bar, but I don’t really think it is that hard to achieve.

  1. There were some very lovely comments in the hackernews thread. Here’s a portion of this comment:

    It’s hard because it probably won’t change the world, but it becomes much harder when shouting.

    It’s entirely OK to sit and write without fanfare, we’re not wizards or witches any longer, just plain people with the same plain obligation towards the mind as towards the body: tend, feed, and regularly empty out.

    If today you really gotta go write, go ahead, knock yourself out.

    If tomorrow you just scribble in the margins of empty pages but nothing comes, have a bath or a nap or both, and sit again the day after.

    I also find it very helpful to remember that I’m not addressing others when writing, I’m not in a possibly empty auditorium talking into the void, instead I’m reaching across time and continue a discussion I started with myself earlier, and may pick up again later.

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