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The worst part of writing is writing

I’ve been neck-deep in a long-form first draft for months; at this point I’m many tens of thousands of words in. Every time I look back at my writing from tens of thousands of words ago, it’s a horrible mistake that opens up floodgates of self-questioning. How could I possibly have thought that I could do this? Who on earth would want to read this? Amateur! Go back to whatever it is you do for your day job. (Do you even know? I thought you wrote software? When was the last time you actually wrote software, you hack?)

But I’m determined. The only thing I can say for sure is that, eventually, I will have a manuscript. I have professional mentors who will read and critique it once I’ve iterated on it a few times. Beyond that, I can’t say. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, someone will like it. But perhaps it really is doomed to sit on my hard drive, unloved.

The deeper I get into it, the more I’m comfortable with the idea of failure. I think I started with the idea that I might be intentionally writing something that a lot of people might enjoy, but at this point it’s for me. The more I pour in of myself, and the ideas I have about the world (and the future of technology, because that’s the kind of book this is), the more I feel comfortable with it. Even if nobody loves it, it’ll be representative of me: a genuine work of self-expression hooked onto a plot that I continue to think is really interesting. And the feedback I get will help me learn to write the next one.

It turns out that the thing which most motivates me to write is my sense of humor. If it’s too self-serious, I stall. (Honestly, I expect readers would, too.) On the other hand, if I’m amusing myself, undercutting my serious points with irony or adding notes about things from the real world that I think are ridiculous, I can go forever. That’s probably something worth knowing about myself: I thrive on irreverence. I cut my teeth on Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Charlie Brooker’s early stuff, so that’s probably not surprising. I could probably use more of that here, too.

Anyway. It’s like pulling teeth, but joyously. A gleeful festival of unpleasant monotony wherein I make myself laugh while disgusting myself with my own ineptitude. And maybe, if I’m really, really lucky, something will even come of it.

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