Mike Gerwitz

Activist for User Freedom

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authorMike Gerwitz <mtg@gnu.org>2020-06-30 23:51:57 -0400
committerMike Gerwitz <mtg@gnu.org>2020-06-30 23:54:11 -0400
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Writing As a Means to Another End: New post
This is a deeply personal one.
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+# Writing As a Means to Another End
+To anyone who's looked at the number of posts I've made in the past few
+ years on this blog,
+ it may surprise you to learn that I do a lot of writing.
+It's just that the majority if it is never read by anyone other than myself.
+When I write---%
+ as I am now---%
+ I certainly _intend_ for others to read it.
+But that's not usually what happens.
+Writing articles is a means to an end.
+But the end isn't always the written word.
+Writing is a journey,
+ and sometimes it leads far from where one may expect.
+<!-- more -->
+If I'm going to spend the time writing something,
+ I want it to be thorough and compelling.
+I want facts and references,
+ and I want them to be good ones.
+I don't want to have to go back and correct inaccuracies,
+ because then I will have lead you astray.[^immutable]
+I want concrete evidence to back up each and every claim I make,
+ so I can prove to you (or maybe it's to myself) that I really do know what
+ I'm talking about,
+ without question.
+[^immutable]: In fact,
+ earlier versions of this blog had posts as commit messages,
+ making them very difficult to change,
+ since I didn't want to rewrite history.
+Let's say I'm writing about a topic that I have over a decade of experience
+ with.
+As I formalize my thoughts and describe this particular thing,
+ I'm forced to rationalize to you---the reader---everything.
+And sometimes I find that,
+ even though I have strong _practical_ knowledge of something,
+ I may lack sufficient understanding of certain theory or consequences.
+So I start digging.
+And before I know it,
+ I've amassed too many [yaks][] to possibly shave within a
+ lifetime.[^reading-list]
+[yaks]: https://projects.csail.mit.edu/gsb/old-archive/gsb-archive/gsb2000-02-11.html
+[^reading-list]: This is evidenced by my (private) reading list,
+ which I literally cannot finish within this lifetime at my current pace,
+ and which grows faster than I can consume it.
+So the solution seems simple:
+ skip the formality.
+Some information is better than none, right?
+It'd still help others.
+Ah, but it would make obvious to others that maybe I don't know what I'm
+ talking about.
+What others may see as an informative work,
+ I see as a laying bare everything I _don't_ know.
+Everything I've yet to learn.
+And if I have so much to learn,
+ why am I writing about it?
+That's nonsense,
+ of course---%
+ some of the _best_ information I've gotten was from candid articles
+ written by people who are _still learning_ about the topic at hand.
+It's wonderful reading about their thoughts, experiences, and---%
+ most importantly---%
+ their _struggles_.
+So why don't I do the same?
+I know full well that most readers will never notice the inadequacies that
+ clinch so piercingly my attention.
+I believe my behavior is best represented by something called
+ [Imposter Syndrome][].
+At risk of getting too deep into this topic and therefore not publishing
+ this post,
+ I'm going to keep light on the details and let you do the
+ research.[^rabbit-hole]
+But what essentially happens is paradoxical---%
+ my quest for knowledge only proves to me how much more I have to learn and
+ how little I know,
+ creating this never-ending, unstatisfiable, ravenous feedback loop.
+Since writing a good article (in my mind) is predicated on having a certain
+ foundation,
+ and having a foundation requires its own foundation,
+ this recursive process has no end.
+This is thrilling,
+ but the end result is that articles never get finished.
+And one day when I return to find them,
+ months or years later,
+ I've discovered so much that the only proper way to finish them is to
+ start all over again.
+And so the cycle continues.
+I am,
+ and never will be,
+ good enough for you,
+ dear reader.
+[Imposter Syndrome]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome
+[^rabbit-hole]: And yet,
+ just in providing that single Wikipedia link,
+ I jumped down that familiar rabbit hole and had to pull myself out.
+ "Should I publish an article claiming Imposter Syndrome unless I can
+ articulate fully and fluently all relevant details?"
+This problem doesn't just manifest with my writing---%
+ it happens with my [free software][] projects too.
+They all die for the same reason,
+ or barely get off of the ground to begin with.
+[free software]: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html
+I said that writing is a journey.
+As it turns out,
+ it's mostly a selfish one,
+ at least for me.
+Because the end result isn't often an article suitable for publication;
+ it's a wonderful and deeply personal collection of experiences.
+I have learned so much through this process of unattainable self-betterment.
+I have met so many good people.
+And, in retrospect, I have bested the best I thought I could be.
+ despite the evidence all around me that I am in fact a competent person,
+ I can't bring myself to sincerely _believe_ it.
+Despite my _own admission_ of besting the best I thought I could be,
+ I can't finish typing this paragraph without wanting to delete that
+ sentence.
+So now,
+ having observed this over the years,
+ I exploit it to my benefit---%
+ sometimes I write simply for the sake of starting that journey,
+ knowing that it'll lead me somewhere magnificent.
+And one day,
+ if I can bring myself to actually bring these articles to publication,
+ I'll take you on that journey with me,
+ and hopefully I'll be able to share even a fraction of that magnificence
+ with you.[^epilogue]
+[^epilogue]: Clearly I finished this article.
+ In a sitting,
+ just as I expected to.
+ And the reason for this is important,
+ I think:
+ this article is a manifestation of my inner feelings.
+ I'm not trying to convince you of anything.
+ I'm simply speaking from the heart,
+ and there's little getting in the way of that.
+ The _goal_ of this piece is to emphasize my shortcomings.
+ That's easy---%
+ those come cheap.
+ Maybe that's something I can exploit more often too.