Words out of the inkwell
Quite often I translate literally from Spanish
One of my biggest emotional blocks when writing/working/preparing a presentation is the inner educator as Marshal Rosemberg coins it, the critical voice that lures and distracts the review of a draft, article or personal letter.
Once I overcome the blocks, words flow. As simple as that, like a stream of fresh water coming down the mountain when the snow melts in early spring. The icy blocks trap the treasure of the thoughts and feelings intertwined. The blocked, shareable ideas are judged, pre-judged even before landing in my google notes, and therefore they don’t survive long.
Other times I manage to land them in the tintero (Spanish for inkwell), my collection of notes, post titles, topics I may have a say or some copy-paste I would like to revisit later. In Spanish we have this fabulous saying quedarse en el tintero, literally to stay in the inkwell, about things we regret we didn’t write about.
In the remote past, I mean way before our parents, writing was done using a fountain pen with required ink from an inkwell. From a usability perspective it is quite weird that you need to fill the pen every few strokes to keep writing, with all the side effects of tossing the inkwell and ruining your writings. I am glad we have other alternatives less error-prone.
Continuing with our Spanish phrase, writing is a creative activity that you need to put in paper to be easily contrasted and shared. So the ideas that you wouldn’t put in paper will remain in the inkwell until you move them into paper.
Getting words out of the inkwell is hard. In my case my main block is this inner censor or jackal, the mental rules of thumb that try to help me decide what’s good enough to be read to be worth writing. Making sure that the content is useful without writing it first.
My second block is reviewing. As most of us, I struggle to review my own writings, my own programming code. Why was I writing this in the first place? Who was my reader? Was it for me? I struggle to review my notes, even when 10 or 15 years pass and I am a distant witness of the original writer. Which is good when writing about technologies because after 10 years there’s very little in software that survives the test of time, mixture of oblivion and obsolescence. In that case it is enough to bin it, and move on to other things, detached from the initial concern of writing something worth reading.
Two magic spells may help me to melt the ice, the first is to schedule some time, to see if with enough rays of sun the ice may cede eventually. The other spell is to write in response to a threat or some other triggering situation, which reminds me of the finitude of time and little value of leaving things work in progress.
Memento mori, remember you die, wrote the old Romans.