But don't worry; it's a skill anyone can learn. Look at me -- I write and I'm an idiot!
It’s straightforward enough to blather on and kind of get your point across -- throw enough words at it and your reader will somehow, inevitably, get the point -- but expressing yourself concisely and efficiently takes time. This is how MIT neuroscientist Susan Hockfield describes writing:
It’s the painful process of transforming three-dimensional, parallel-processed experience into two-dimensional, linear narrative… It’s worse than squaring a circle, it’s squaring a sphere.
And because it's so tricky, it can be easy to get paralysed thinking about it. You know what message you have to get across, you sort of know how you're going to say it, but when it comes to putting your fingers to the keyboard you hesitate, worrying that it'll turn out to be rubbish.
But what you should realise is that rubbish is okay. In fact, rubbish is good!
That’s why we call them first drafts. It’s much easier to edit something than it is to compose from scratch.
I'm a real procrastinator and sometimes feel that I'd rather check my two beagles for anal warts rather than start to write something. And it's not even as if my ignoring that thing I'm writing will go away if I leave it long enough; I'm going to have to do it anyway, so why not just get started on the damn thing? Sigh. If only my procrastinating mind would agree.
There's a bit of software I use which really helps to kick things off. It's called "Write or Die" and was created by a developer named -- gulp -- Dr Wicked. It's a very simple application that gives you a writing window, lets you choose how long you want your writing session to be (why not start with just 10 little minutes?) and also how many words you'll be attempting to write in that time.
So far, so blah. But listen, here's the good bit: it won't let you drift off into space and lose concentration. Once you exceed the time permitted to write a new word, the software begins its chastisement of you. The "Consequences" it makes you suffer, and which you pre-decide yourself, range from "Gentle" (the screen gradually turns red and a pop-up box tells you to start typing again) though "Normal" (a shrieking sound plays over your speakers until you begin to type again) and eventually to "Kamikaze". Kamikaze's Consequences are sadistic and wonderful: pause in your writing for more than the permitted time and the software actually starts to erase what you've already written! It's a wonderful incentive to keep going and is the setting I always choose.
For extra evilness, there's even a button you can click which disables the backspace button on your keyboard, so you're not allowed to over-obsess about what you've written and try to edit on the fly, as it were.
It's not free -- costs US$10 -- but the gains you'll make in productivity through using it will make it pay for itself pretty much the first time you use it. Write or Die by Dr Wicked. I'm not connected to them and don't get a commission; I just think it's fab software for the price of a couple of cups of coffee.
So, my 愛しい友達, the next time you find yourself staring into space, hoping for inspiration and dreaming of more pleasant things (Halle Berry, Bird’s Trifle, Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Argentina in 1998… ), get something written down. You’ll be amazed at how much easier the job will be once you have text to look at and edit.
And remember: it really, really doesn’t have to be perfect first time. It can be gibberish. A different language. No one ever has to know except you. And me, of course, but I’m not telling.