Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Writing is hard

I like to think myself as a writer. Writers are nice people, who have interesting thoughts, read people and books alike, and write awesome stuff, so who wouldn't like to title himself thus? Luckily I haven't had the chance to be questioned about my writerness yet, for my latest project spawned a story whose word count would earn it a place in the NaNoWriMo - competition if writing it took 1/18th of time it really did. If someone actually dared to ask on what grounds my title lies, that text would be my answer. From simpler minds I do not fear the question, for the word-count would be baffling: "Oh wow. He has managed to embed so much words to a story. He must be good". I am afraid for a day I meet someone like myself, who knows that quantity tells nothing, quality tells everything, and also is able to ask how long ago I last began writing a good story. I have objectively verified that the technical quality of that old text is not terrific, it would love to be fed through a grammar checker at the very moment I find one that doesn't suck, and on a subjective scales of myself and Tässi's, the story isn't too well thought out. And the worst fact: I began writing the text in January of the 2012, finished it in the June of 2013, and decided I won't begin a new text until my eternity-project MERPG is ready, which by the definition, will take an eternity.

Okay, I admit, I did some experimentation in the October on the Lomaproosa2, but it was half-assed attempt at continuing the story. Really I was just experimenting with the org-mode. I have also written a blogpost now and then even after the summer, and these blogposts are what I really want to be talking about today. Let this be time for metablogging!

In case you haven't noticed, at some distant moment in the last summer of '13 I began speaking english here. I did it for a good reason, for I had some idea concerning programming, and if I had began writing about it in finnish, I would have had to use so many untranslateable englishms that it was easier to write in english to begin with. That text was easy because I didn't need to think about it: I just had an abstract idea, that needed meat around it in form of words, and after an hour of banging the keyboard, it was ready to be published. Texts after that though, some of them were ugly, some had an idea hidden so deep behind a wall of grammatical and conceptual WTFs that I had to unpublish them before someone important read them and decided I am a 11-year-old american teen who's never had to learn either his language nor his profession. How has it come to this?

Let's have a look on my history. I graduated high school (I hope that's what Lukio is in english. I've never understood how to translate our school-system to english) in 2012, when my english was graded as M. I'll not even try to translate these yo-grades to english, let's just say my english was upper average. After that, I began working in the industry, so no more weekly english lessons for me. For 1,5 years my weekly doses of english came from programming blogs and books, writing code with english keywords and comments (for the Visual Studio and Netbeans being too shitty to not fuck up the scandic characters), tv, games, music, and sometimes I even read prose in english. That's why I am not afraid of the Georger R.R. Martin's heavy writing style in the Game of Thrones - book I'm currently reading. My reading comprehension is excellent, but how did I rehearse my writing and discussion skills? Well, a year of writing mainly comments in english makes anyone a terrific comment-writer, but as expected, my longer texts are rubbish. And discussion? My social skills suck, I am not able to discuss even in finnish with anyone not sharing at least a decade's worth of context with myself. Good luck trying to interact with people not belonging in my family or not being named 'Tässi'. If I can't discuss with laymen in finnish, what hope do I have in interacting in english?

None :)

Back in the end of January, in the Finnish Game Jam I promised a text from but never wrote one, my team had a majority of non-finnish people. I genuinely tried communicating in english as much as possible, but after a few hours I realized I had some troubles following even the finnish guys, and soon after that my vocal communications decreased to a point where I communicated only with the guy who's best skills lie in communicating with people. Not a smart move, I know, but it just happened without me really noticing.

What I'm trying to say here is that I read english absolutely well (well, Tässi might argue with that assertion, but as a wise man once said, benchmarking yourself against people who could solve anything you throw at them if they wanted to is stupid), but my textual output isn't as classy, and although I'd probably survive in the GB ar US as long as I cared to, my vocal output is as horrible as any finn's. What the hell am I writing these in this language, then? Two facts I've had trouble understanding and accepting in the past are that everybody sucks nobody, including me, is perfect and it doesn't matter. Let me repeat: I suck, and it's okay. The definition of suckage is also one I got screwed up ages ago. In my world — this might sound like a quote from BBC's Sherlock or House — only thing worse than complete failure is being average and dull. In school you either did all the exercises or you did none - since picking the easy raisins from the bun would've been just stupid.

How does this relate to the blogging, which I was supposed to blog about? I'm not entirely sure anymore. This rambling is what you'll get when you run to write a last, polished version without sketching first. Children, please, plan and sketch your texts first, even though these emacses of the present day do make it seem reduntant.

So, I'm a writer, who has some experience of english, this lingua franca of our trade of programming. More in the consuming side, some in the producing side, and most of it writing comments explaining or questioning WTFs in a code. I however practise my trade of writing real texts seldom and with very long texts (like this has some potential of becoming, 1121 words and counting). Most of the stuff I produce falls into the crap-category, at least in my eyes, which have this black and white view of this world where you either are the best or you're nothing, and Tässi's, who's mind I think is so exceptional I rarely give his negative criticism any value unless I'm honing the edges and polishing the surfaces, for none but him seem to pay attention to details in such extremes.

Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

That's not a rhetorical question.

First, the timing just sucks. One can't hold on to skills one doesn't hone periodically. Within the last year, upon returning to the school, I've seen myself screwing royally up many math-, linguistic-, and people-problems I would have found unbelievably easy in the best moments of the high school, and with most of them I had an idea that I'd seen such puzzles in the past, but I hadn't solved them for so long I couldn't remember how it is done . As I've cried for the last two or three years, I'm supposed to write much more than I currently do, and although the 750words - experiment brought a few more texts last month than I would've expected in the first days of the February, that well may have dried at the end of my trial-period. I stopped the experiment two weeks ago, for in the holidays I had absolutely no time to bleed into the internet, and the last week was so weird and stressful that I couldn't resume it. In the future however, I'll try to publish at least a text a week, and probably fail :) But then again, I suck and it doesn't matter.

In shorter words, I should write more to keep my english- and writer's skills from decaying.

Second, I yearn for quality that isn't achievable. If I concentrated more on producing text, less on worrying how people react to the rubbish I write, I might actually get something real written. A nice side-effect could be that the rubbishness-level decreases also, but I wouldn't hold my hopes high.

Third, however much I try and want, I'm incapable of writing language rants. They are hellishly hard to write even if not caring enough to get the facts straight, and because I can't write like Yegge, my "rants" are dull to read.

And the last but not the least of my blogging- related problems: I don't live enough. The problem can be rewritten in a form that I can't build up a facade of living enough. For example Swizec seems to pop between the US and different european countries every now and then, and he seems to have a routine of spending some time doing anything but programming or writing. Me? I just go to school, program & write, and spend summer-evenings in the Siikajärvi. Could I routinely make up interesting texts of this life? Oh yes! Do I? Of course not, for I don't consider it living a life interestingly enough. I seem to be missing many interesting people too, because I never caught on to any professional community in Helsinki, there seems to be none ready in Kotka (but I'm keeping my eye on one or two building up), and people who can't program are either dull or scary.

Of these four, only the last half of the last problem is probably unsolvable if I try to solve it alone. I should be meeting much more interesting people, and spending time with them, but since there are no real excuses to go out and meet them (because meeting people for only the joy of meeting them is scary), I'm not.

Oh, I could come up with one more problem: my typing speed is horrible (due to having usually only a lack of plan to base the text around), so writing texts with one to two thousand words seem to take whole weekend. I should apply the usual tricks to increasing my words per minute - value: planning the text, writing many texts, and finishing the IM-project and getting a buddy to IM with while coding furiously. The IM-trick is better than it sounds. I can write without looking at the keyboard (ie. touch type?) not because I've consciously exercised this ability but because when Tässi did IM enthusiastically, I had code or story flowing nicely, and had to respond to him too without breaking the infamous glass palace, I didn't have time to admire the keyboard. Another scenario where my WPM has been high was the Age of Empires 3, where I've always discussed with other players (well, the other player, for none but Tässi has kept interest in that game after the 2007) by text, but had to also play the game. Still, for mere writing and coding I've never had to develop high WPM.

But, to wrap this up, let's once more repeat: I suck, it doesn't matter, I don't write enough (to hold interest and to keep my english-skills from decaying), I worry too much while writing, I haven't found the niche to blog in/about, I don't meet enough people, when I write, I'm unable to stop, and my WPM is horrible. What is the solution? Same as in the sports: EXERCISE!