Putting words on paper to express an idea or make an argument has become a real struggle for me. In fact, writing has become a little paralyzing for me. At work we operate in a document culture and the blinking cursor seems to mock me each time I open up a file. I have dozens of ideas for blog posts floating around in my notebooks, but the effort of turning them into prose is daunting.
Writing hasn’t always been a struggle for me. As an undergraduate at Grinnell College I wrote constantly. Writing is a core part of Grinnell’s curriculum, so I wrote in every class, even math classes. I could write a concise one page essay or I could write a thesis length paper without fear. Well, I frequently feared my professor’s feedback, but the writing process wasn’t a chore.
The amount of practice I had writing was the primary reason writing felt easy. Like all skills, writing improves with practice. I need to get back in the habit of writing regularly for it to feel easy. Over the next year, I want to get into the habit of regularly writing. I want this writing practice to make writing feel natural and improve the quality of my writing.
My desire to create a writing practice has recently received some inspiration when I came across the web site of a computer science professor at Grinnell. Professor Rebelsky, whom I never had as a professor, has a whole section title Musings. Dr. Rebelsky these musings as way to learn by reflecting and refining his ideas through the writing process 1. You can see that he is using writing this way by the style of many of his essays. This reminded me that writing is a generative process and is used to think.2 I want to add this tool back to my toolbox.
I’m excited to start using writing as a tool for thinking and learning again. Unfortunately, excitement alone will not get me past my current reluctance to write. There are too many other distractions, so to neutralize these distractions I’m going to set a public goal.
I will write for a half hour each week. I do not have to publish my writing, but I need to use that half hour each week to learn and refine my thoughts.