Sarah helped talk me through the plot of my first romance novel. In short, don't worry about the plot—you know where you're going, now go write.
I haven't touched that novel since we spoke.
I am, however, 11 thousand words deep into a new romance novel in the two weeks since that conversation.
I am also proud of maintaining my writing streak despite a very demanding software upgrade at work this past weekend.
It stands at 11,326 right now. Will stop blogging and get back to the scene I'm on with the sleazy banker.
And, for anyone curious, I'm using Writer: The Internet Typewriter with a Pro account ($99/once; $30/yr; $5/mo) to get the stats. It has a nice graph too.
I bought a Pro account ($99 once for lifetime access) for stats & Dropbox backup in December 2016 and haven't looked back since.
I don't like to use systems that get in my way, or systems that lock me in (don't let me export my writing), so Writer and Write.as are perfect for me.
Today, my best man reminded me of something I taught him years ago: try it, iterate, and either iterate again, or move on.
You should take little bets; easily-reversible, low-cost experiments. Just try it.
You might like it.
You might not.
But now you know.
I'd forgotten about the idea of iteration. But there's no reason that I couldn't apply iterative design to my life and hobbies.
And while there is absolutely value in sticking with something, there is also value in trying lots of things. Because if you aren't willing to try and suck and try again, then how are you going to find something really awesome?
Everyone sucks when they start something new. We just never see it.
We never see the sucking, particularly in this age of social media. We never see the starts. We only see the successes.
So, after your little bet, just make sure you keep going, as a colleague of mine says.
Of course, not every area of your life may benefit from an experiment, depending on the risk level. It also depends on how high the switching costs are between and .
Personally, I'm willing to experiment with my hobbies, but not with my job. Because I value a stable 'secure' job and don't want to take risks in that area of my life.
What sort of little bets you are willing to take and what kind of life experiments you are willing to run, depends on which stage of life you're in.
If you have a new baby and a dying father and work is demanding, now is probably not the best time to take up piano.
Or perhaps when your life is full is the best time; to have 10 minutes every day that you know is just for you to get a little better every day. 10 minutes of joy.
But that goes back to building habits, and consistency every day.
Finally, an experimentation mindset may go hand-in-hand with a growth mindset. We can use the tools of little bets and iterative development, and of experiments, to help us get better.
So that's a win for this blog, and for my own personal journey: getting better, day by day, a little at a time.
P.S. I just learned, while researching this blog post, that the 10,000 hour 'rule' is sort of BS. First, not only is it a retrospective study, it also depends on the problem domain being fixed. In other words, chess is easy to grind at because the rules never change. But something like, say, romance writing might be a little more flexible as reader tastes change and tropes come and go. We'll see.
So. Now I understand why people hate 'minikeys' when they buy a musical instrument.
It's because they're small.
(So obvious. Can you tell I was too anxious about work to get sufficient sleep last night?)
However, your muscle memory requires the spacing to be right.
I haven't played piano in nearly twenty years, but apparently I still remember enough of it to know that the spacing on this keyboard is wrong.
Why is this relevant?
Because I just recorded myself playing on my little keyboard (it is quite cute), to establish a baseline of my musical skills before I start learning how to make music.
Because I want to make something kind of like this, someday.
And here are my skills right now. A little embarrassing, but we're here to get better, not demonstrate knowledge.
If anyone else ever wonders why they have the following file: ~/.ruby_history in their home directory, it's because they used Ruby this way:
rlwrap ruby your_ruby_script.rb
rlwrap is a great way to allow command editing from the command line without doing anything fancy in your terminal program. It allows both Emacs-style and Vi-style editing.
Of course, I found this out after I added command logging to my current software project, extbrain. Although the logging I have in my software project is more specific than 'all the input typed in while running rlwrap'.
Of course, this file is a necessary evil, because one of the joys of rlwrap is getting history back.
The Ruby programming language is, for me, a joy.
I just spent some time trying to work with NewLisp, then Scheme, then Common Lisp and, while those platforms have their merits, they aren't for me. At least not when I have a burning need to get some work done.
time ruby --disable-gems your-script.rb
This has significant speedup on my machine, of course if you need some gems then you shouldn't do this.
Consider also: – crystal (compiled ruby-like, but not Ruby per se) – mruby (lightweight Ruby)
I haven't managed to get mruby to do what I want with a YAML gem, but that's OK since all this is just premature optimization instead of writing the software I need to write.