Lucky number seven

And so we mark the seventh year of this blog. Since my last retrospective, I’ve written 14 posts, which seems to be a roughly average pace for this blog and what I basically aim for: very slightly more than one post per month on no particular schedule. I’d prefer to more consistently put out one post per month, but sometimes the month’s post just doesn’t come together.

Something else that happened last year was that one of my short stories was performed on a podcast (paid section of the episode). It wasn’t the first time I’d been paid for my writing, but it was the first time I’d been paid for my fiction, which hits different. Like writing this blog, writing fiction is not something I do primarily (or even secondarily) for financial gain, but getting paid shows you’ve provided value to other people, and that’s a good feeling, even when the money is small. It’s certainly something I’d like to do again.

A recurring theme in these retrospectives is the question of writing good posts versus writing regular posts. In the last retrospective, I came down quite heavily on the side of writing good posts over maintaining a regular schedule, so perhaps it’s worth putting some weight on the other side of the scale for this one.

Shawn Wang explores this debate in a post entitled “Quality vs Consistency”, fleshes it out from both sides, but ultimately comes down on the side of consistency, and encourages aggressive descoping to achieve this. I don’t know if I completely agree with that – I would still say that irregularly putting out something you’re happy with is better than regularly putting out things you feel are half-baked. He also reminds us that we are bad judges of our own work, and that other people might love something that you think is merely okay. Of course, this can be double-edged – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s real passion was writing historical novels, but the literary career section of his Wikipedia page is divided into “Sherlock Holmes” and “Other works”.

In last year’s retrospective I bemoaned the ideas of writing solely so that you can call yourself a writer, but using none of your own ideas, or keeping to a schedule solely so that you can appease either an algorithm or your own notion of productivity. The equal and opposite danger is being so tied to the notion that you can only do anything when you’re in precisely the right mood, or when inspiration strikes; the more you lean into this kind of thinking, the more elusive the correct mood and inspiration becomes. Even if you really want to create something, following your every whim will more often lead you to the Dark Playground than anywhere good.

The synthesis here, I think, is that discipline and hard work is good, but only when aimed in the right direction. First, have something in mind that is worth doing – something that creates value for yourself and/or others. Then do it, even when you don’t immediately feel like it. Aim for regularity, but not at the expense of quality.

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