Two days ago I wrote the Genius and Tragedy post. It was extremely controversial - very popular on one hand, but got some very strong visceral negative reactions. I'd like to share with you what I've learned about writing, so I can step my game up and improve. Also, I got some downright hateful comments made about me, some really bad and terrible stuff. If this has never happened to you, maybe you don't know what it feels like, and I've got some advice on how to deal with it. I also did some detailed reading and analysis of the kinds of comments I got, and there was some fascinating results that I'll share.
So, first and foremost, I made a mistake - If you're writing to help someone, it can be pretty presumptuous to do it without touching base and clearing it with them first. I made that error for a few reasons - first, two of my best posts have come from the same format, and both achieved their desired objective. ("How do I write so much, you ask?" and "I think greatness is something you do, not something you are" both publicly called people I like out - and both times it worked) - so that's the first thing, I'd had a good track record with this, however those were people I'd been touching base with already.
Second, as a general principal I believe in working really quickly. I analogize it to "fighting out of formation" - quick, lightly edited writing is always worse than well-edited best practices. But, the more you do of it, the better you get at it. And by producing anything really quickly, you get better faster. If someone produces 10 times as much content, how long until their lightly edited work is superior to the other person's highly polished work? This isn't a rhetorical question - check out "Quantity Always Trumps Quality" on codinghorror.com sometime. If you produce quickly and of lower quality at first, you can iterate and improve, and eventually your quick production work is better than the obsessively refined person's work who isn't getting as much done (and thus not learning the lessons). Pablo Picasso talked about this quite a bit, if you're particularly interested on the topic.
The downside, of course, is that you make mistakes. And I did - I should've touched base before writing that post, or had it vetted, or at least, spent more time editing it to be clear, concise, and unambiguous, and even more polite. Mea culpa - my mistake! It's okay for me to work quickly and bring errors upon myself because of it, but I need to be more careful when involving others.
Then, why is that post still up? This is what I wrote as the episode was winding down, it was well-received by the community -
When I was a kid, my parents would tell me to do something reasonable like clean my room. I'd probably do it, or at least make a token effort. Sometimes I wouldn't do it, and my mom would do it for me. Or maybe I'd be out at school and she'd be sick of me having a messy room, so she'd just clean it without asking me to do it first. In school I'd be assigned stuff to do. Usually I'd do it, but when I didn't, there weren't really any consequences. I'd get worse grades, but the impact of one assignment on a grade always seemed so tiny, and I never really cared about grades beyond not getting in trouble with my parents.
I got used to the idea that if I was supposed to do something, but didn't do it, it didn't really matter. Maybe someone else would just do it for me, or maybe the problem would just go away. There are probably a million different reasons that people procrastinate, but this was probably the biggest one for me. It wasn't that I thought that I would prefer to do something later-- it's that I sort of subconsciously thought that if I didn't do it now, maybe I'd never have to do it.
In real life, though, this isn't how things work. If I don't do something right now that needs to get done, then I'm going to need to do it later.
I remember the first time I came face to face with this. Two thousand three was the first year I made a significant amount of money gambling online. I think it may have also been the first year my parents stopped filing taxes for me. They told me to take care of my taxes and even told me how to take care of them. April fifteenth came around, and I kept thinking about how I should realy get to those taxes, knowing I wasn't actually going to do them. On the sixteenth, taxes felt just like a missed assignment. Too late to do anything about it now!