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gnat (29)

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Journal of gnat (29)

Monday January 07, 2002
02:33 PM

Fire and Motion

[ #1966 ]
Joel Spolsky has an amazing article on periodic dysfunction and how things are done. It really resonated with me--I've just come off a week of barely productive days, and made a breakthrough that let me feel very productive. Some days I can conquer the world, some days I feel like I just want to throw the machine out the window and go back to bed.

Also resonant was the idea that you get things done by doing them, even if only a little bit each day. Write and move a little closer to your target. All the creative writing books say the same thing--the world is full of novelist wannabes, but authors are people who write. If you don't write, you just sit around and talk about it, or avoid it, or fantasize about it, you're not writing and you're not a writer. So do a little every day, whether it's good or not, and you'll be making progress.

I read part of John Steinbeck's diary he kept while he wrote one of his lesser-known novels, and he had days that he didn't want to write, but he did anyway. That's how it happens. I'm sure everyone knows that horrible feeling of ending a day having done nothing that moves you closer toward your goal--answered a lot of email, watched some porn, read some Usenet, scoured Meerkat for new articles, refreshed hoping something else exploded ... but no actual work.

When Tom and I wrote the Perl Cookbook, I would write in the nights, after eating dinner and watching some TV. I didn't have kids then :-). I would write until midnight or 1, squeezing a regular bit of production into the day. Of course, I had a pretty forgiving day job, and much of the Cookbook was written then too! I would write until I had finished a chapter or two, then burnt out I'd take a break while Tom worked. Sometimes it seemed like we were alternating because each would get guilty at slacking off while the other did work, and sometimes it just seemed like we could only write a chapter or two at a time.

So, anyway, read the article that prompted these thoughts, and tell me what you think.


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  • This is exactly how I feel about software development. I had a horrible time on the WebBoard project for example - before Dave Rolsky lit a fire under my ass I'd spent about 2 months being completely unproductive. Yet when I set my mind to coding something I can do a month's work in a week, compared to almost everyone I've ever worked with.

    Maybe I'll try the "little bit at a time" thing. You never know, it might work :-)
  • ... it's rare you read something that resonates that well. Joel++; even if he's a windows type. =)

    -- ask bjoern hansen [], !try; do();