Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fast and Furious

Why does blogging work? I mean, you would think that you would get better quality out of a more thoughtful, careful, selective process of writing, rather than a relentless pace of posting, posting, posting. And yet people do blog about things that don't really require such a ferocious pace of reaction (politics, fashion, TV, etc.) And it still seems to work.

I think it's an extension of the 80-20 rule. The fact is that, most of the time, your first quick draft is going to have most of the value that the work will ever have. Especially in creative works where you're trying to get something unique and unexpected past your internal censors, fast is going to be relatively efficient. Of course there will always be exceptions . . . poetry usually requires a excruciation editing and distillation as well as spontaneous presto style. No one probably ever whacked in a concise explanation about anything. And yet . . . the first is still probably the best, or most of it, anyway.

This is, of course, very bad news for the perfectionists. Or, I should say, um, us perfectionists. I find it particularly galling to realize that significant percentages of my effort at just about everything is probably overkill. In school I had one basic strategy, the strategy of the grind: just spend more time at it than anyone else. In the business world, I found that strategy sucked. I remember countless times when I would be agonizing over some detail or other, or gathering just a little more data on a problem, and then my boss would walk in, ask where I was at, pick up the phone, talk for ten minutes, and have everything wrapped up in no time. Every time that happened I would sit there asking myself, "How did he make that look so easy?" Only later did I learn to say: "Why was I making it so hard?"

There is also the Woody Allen principle: "80% of success is just showing up." We should take heart at the fact that the world does not require perfection, or even anything remotely close to it. The world just requires something from us, right now. And as soon as we get it out there, the world can start giving us its 80% contribution.


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