Flaky Goodness

Start by Being Terrible

October 7, 2012

Are you a good driver?

I don’t mean professional-grade, just better than most of the jerks you’re constantly dealing with on the road. You’re an above average driver, aren’t you?

Despite what we would like to believe, not all of us are above average. In fact, there is probably little correlation between someone’s perceived skill behind the wheel and their actual skill. By definition, we cannot be objective about our abilities in any particular field, whether we are complete newbies or seasoned veterans. Not all “veterans” are good. Without some external expression of our work, for others and even ourselves to point to and compare to our original vision, we have no sense of how good we actually are.

This can be useful. If we fully appreciated how terrible we were at something new, we might never stick with it long enough to become better. Imagine taking a dancing class where you were always keenly aware of how ridiculous you looked. It would be hard to concentrate, and impossible to enjoy the experience. It is only by putting aside our internal self-assessment that we can push past terribleness.


Figure 1: Iteration

What do you think about this post so far? Do you think you could express this idea more efficiently, or with a little more flair?

I have been reading blog posts on the Internet for far longer than I have been writing them. It is only when I actually started writing that I felt the full weight of my ineptitude. I love good writing, online and off, and I presumptuously considered my own skills on par with what I was reading. I often felt that I could have written that same post, maybe even a little bit better.

But just trying to express my ideas in writing has shown me how much I have to learn. Now that I’ve started, and now that I see just how bad I am, maybe I can begin to improve.

You might think I am being too hard on myself, and you might have heard other writers express a similar sentiment. Know that the reason a writer (and perhaps any type of artist) is their own harshest critic is because he is sensitive to just how inefficiently, self-indulgently, pompously, inconsiderately, condescendingly, and ignorantly he has sprayed what started out as a pretty good idea onto the page.

Even if you happen to be enjoying this post, I guarantee it is a poor shadow of the idea in my head. And that’s what I’m trying to get at: our ideas are good, but we are arrogant to think that we can express them with perfect fidelity. That all of their strength and virtue will land on the page, or in the presentation, or the source-code.

That can happen, but only once you have started becoming less terrible.