I haven’t used a pencil in a long time. Excepting required standardized test situations, it’s probably been 9 years. Things have been OK—my handwriting has never been great—but I just realized that I’ve been doing it wrong.
When you write in ink, you tell yourself that you’re recording things more accurately. You can cross out mistakes, but they will remain on the page. Going forward, you will try to be correct the first time around more often.
Except that’s not what happens. Instead, you begin to accept messy cross-outs and scribbles as part of the finished product. You defend your crap against onlooking pencil-lovers, becoming entrenched in your bad habits.
If you bother to look at the notes taken by those critics, you might find them to be absolutely beautiful masterpieces. And you might question yourself for a moment—is the pen counter-productive?
In truth, it’s not about the utensil or the stationery. It’s not about whether I blog on Medium, publishing with ease, versus here on my homemade site which requires manual manipulation of web files.
Content is the crux. Developing a clear vision of what I really want to write about, then adhering to that goal. Holding myself to high standards, or even any standard at all to start with. It’s OK to sacrifice a few extra minutes here or there doing some silly routine if it helps me to get in the zone and accomplish my mission.
Like many people, I tend to obsess over trivia. I’ve devoted far more thought and effort to my pen and defense of shoddy handwriting habits than I have into much more important things, like the following question: what matters enough to write about and actually get it right on the first try?
Often, I throw away all my notes without reading them, thinking I can go back to the textbook if needed. I will delete photos I have taken, knowing that Google images has even better shots of the view I’m struggling to capture.
It’s useful to believe these seemingly permanent decisions are actually reversible. I’ve been served well by my joyful, undying optimism. You can fix the relationship, you can make back the money you’ve spent, somehow.
But the problem with this approach is it undervalues time, the most important resource of all. If, like me, you like to over-analyze everything, making lists of ideas, generating angles and pondering the perfect approach—then you need to discover your personal Bugsy algorithm.
I have a bit more to say, but I’ll save it for the next post on accomplishing what we set out to accomplish.