“Everyone is scared to get up there and lay it on the line. I’ve learned that from men who let me in on their secret, that they are just as scared as anyone, but are expected to JUST DO IT. I think women are often given permission to be scared of things like public speaking and BACK AWAY from opportunities, instead of move towards them.” — Halley‘s comment on misbehaving.net

A few years ago, I met Anita Borg at the 1999 top 25 women of the web awards. We struck up a conversation at the bar and after introductions and a bit of small talk she said to me: “you should publish.” I got the sense that she meant, you, as in every woman in technology, and of course, me in particular. When I asked her what I had to write about, she looked intently serious and a bit exasperated when she replied, “whatever you are working on.” She didn’t need to tell me that’s what the men write about. She didn’t need to ask: what makes you believe that your work and your thoughts are any less significant than the latest technical article or paper that you have read?

Fast forward to five years later and I haven’t published an article or paper. I could argue that in between family and work that I don’t have the time. I really don’t. However, that’s not the whole story. In truth, I’d like to write something that is more than a few paragraphs. Writing English is not like writing code. It’s harder (at least for me). There’s no compiler. You can’t run it afterwards to see if makes sense and feels right. It’s a different thing entirely.

One of the reasons I keep a web log is for writing practice.

“In 2 years of following the blog phenomenon closely, I can safely say I’ve seen all the criticisms before. They’re almost always written by someone who hasn’t sat at my keyboard. Many times they turn things that have long been considered virtues in other contexts directly on their head. A writer a-borning is always urged to face the blank sheet of paper, each day, every day, without fail. Fill it. The better part of writing then becomes deciding what not to include. For blog critics, filling the page is a vice. The budding writer is also urged to find her inner voice, to speak from the heart, because the only writing that truly matters, that will be remembered, is the writing that comes from a distinct point of view. For blog critics, writing from your point of view is considered egotism. I even saw someone quit weblogging because he felt there was something wrong with writing statements that were not immediately challenged, an interesting social phenomenon born perhaps of chat rooms and newsgroups.

“I see these potshots and I’m flabbergasted. We’re to bury ourselves? We’re to wait until we have something Important(tm) to say before speaking? Until our design is an award-winner?

“I say, Go to hell. I mean it. Maybe this form means nothing to you. Well, fine, because I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. I am writing for what I get out of the process of thinking about a political issue or a scientific discovery and explaining it to my readers. I am writing for the responses I get from my readers. I am writing for the interplay with the larger community of webloggers.

“I’m doing nothing different than writers have done for millennia. I just have better tools. Fan-fucking-tastic better tools.” — a weblogger’s manifestito

(this quote from a now obsolete web page was resurrected thru the magic of the wayback machine)

read more top ten reasons for a web log

2 thoughts on “just do it

  1. You said: “Writing English is not like writing code. It’s harder (at least for me). There’s no compiler. You can’t run it afterwards to see if makes sense and feels right.”

    True there’s no compiler or acceptance test. But you can ask for peer review from fellow writers. I have a group writer friends scattered across the country. We review and comment on each others work, offer suggestions, and help each other get unstuck. My writer community helps me asnwer the quesions about does it make sense and feel right. (They also tell me when I should just start over.)

    Esther

  2. Of course it is a better tool! And, as with tools, we are only left with what we have, but with a larger audience.
    I suppose that’s why I love blogging.

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