Because the Communications of the ACM has so much surprisingly good writing, it has become one of my favorite periodicals. (I say surprisingly because CACM is a technical journal.) Though the journal is aimed primarily at computer scientists, much of the content is accessible to a wider audience. Take, for example, “Mightier than the pen.” Communications of the ACM 52, no. 12 (12, 2009): 112. [closed access, alas], Joe Haldeman’s essay on how the complex relationship he has as a writer with both the computer and pen and paper. I got such a kick out of the essay that I was moved to submit the following comment to the piece:
I identify very much with Joe Haldeman’s “collaboration between pen and computer”. I had to think twice about whether I’d make the same hard decision of computer over pen if one had to choose one and concluded that yes, I’d do the same. I would have wanted to read more about what Mr. Haldeman thinks a world of computers without “a fountain pen [writing] into a bound blank book” would be like. It was only after a family member gave me my first Moleskine journal that I rediscovered what I had lost when I wrote almost exclusively on a computer.
Earlier in the week, I came across an article that I’ve been mulling over the past couple of days. It goes a long way in addressing a problem that I’ve been facing: that of not being able to get started with big writing projects. If you have the same problem, I recommend reading and Tomorrow’s Professor Blog: How to Write Anything and following its recommendations. Here’s an excerpt:
A much more effective strategy is to make a commitment to regularly devote short periods of time to major writing projects. Thirty minutes a day is plenty, or maybe an hour three times a week. One approach is to designate a fixed time period on specified days, preferably at a time of day when you’re at your peak, during which you close your door, ignore your phone, and do nothing but work on the project. Alternatively, you might take a few 10-15 minute breaks during the day-times when you would ordinarily check your email or surf the Web or play Sudoku-and use them to work on the project instead. Either way, when you start to write you’ll quickly remember where you left off last time and jump in with little wasted motion. When you’ve put in your budgeted time for the day, you can (and generally should) stop and go back to the rest of your life.