Removing the Back(b)log

A quick look back at the month of May shows that until this weekend, I'd written exactly one blog entry, and it was tangential to my "day job." I could argue that my "day job" filled more than the usual quota of hours, but in actuality, I consider blogging part of my day job -- it's about providing transparency into what I'm doing, thinking and using to shape my views of systems engineering at Sun, replete with double dashes and parenthetical comments.

In the (limited) interests of full disclosure, though, here's where the time has gone: meeting with customers, working on FY09 messages and goals, meeting with various teams building technical communities, scribbling down notes for blog entries, books, and cleaning out my Somerset, NJ office in preparation for a major summer construction project. I've also been reading much more than writing, having gone through about half of the sci-fi volumes ordered two months ago.

But: blogging is writing, and writing is a skill like playing a sport or musical instrument that requires practice, experimentation and regular exercise. In various email exchanges with Cory Doctorow I've asked him how he manages to produce so much content on a regular basis, and his response was simple - he writes every day, aiming to produce about 500 "good words" a day. On the surface, that sounds like very little output for very large input, until you try it. It's one thing to zip off ten emails of fifty words each, quite another to fit 500 words into a story that's evolving over a period of weeks. My limited personal experience in writing technical books proved this true. When it got down to it, I spent weekends holed up in my home office writing and revising. Half a dozen book ideas and two dozen blog thoughts are floating around at any time in between Mac sticky notes, notebooks, sheafs of paper, the back of staff meeting agendas (sorry, Don, but when inspiration strikes I scribble it down), and in one case, the border of a story title page from Asimov's science fiction magazine. But without the desire and discipline to sit down and turn paper bits into oxide bits, nothing happens.

What uncorked the back log? Believe it or not, a really bad 3/4 round of golf (3/4 because I gave up after 14 holes, having incurred the wrath of the course marshalls, the foursome behind us, and at least three woods-dwelling small mammals frightened by what should have been fairway drives). While golf is a contact sport bordering on one requiring protective helmets for me, I'm not usually that horrendous -- just out of practice. As I am with writing. When you don't write, the comments and the emails die down; when you don't practice physical activities, the hoots and hollers increase.

Comments:

Why five hundred words, Hal? If a picture’s worth a thousand words, this works:

http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2006/09/11/Angry-Cow

Now that I think of it, what’s a link worth? Tim didn’t pay me to write this. ;-)

Second, what about “Haiku”?

http://blogs.sun.com/eclectic/entry/my_haiku_going_to_london

I liked it, but I’m not Wayne’s wife, and it’s her opinion that matters on that one. :-) (Wayne didn’t pay me either).

Now, that would be a brain teaser to come up with engineering Haiku! Or is it a natural? Hmmm… recursive code… Hmmm :-)

Posted by Carolyn on May 27, 2008 at 05:57 PM EDT #

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