Category Archives: Writing

May Miscellany

It’s been a little while since I posted, so I thought I’d post some end-of-semester miscellaneous items.

  • I figured out my hangup about writing (with some help): I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Your first reply may be to say, “well, duh!”, and you’d be right to say that. However, being new to something isn’t a feeling that I’m used to anymore. I’m coming out of a career where someone could hand me a project and I could get started with very few problems. Not so with research writing, as was pointed out to me.

    I thought the fear angle was it for a while, but then I mulled it over, along with the comments people left in that vein. They were good observations, I think, but I’m not convinced that it’s fear. I’m a bit intimidated, don’t get me wrong, but I think that more than anything else I’m just lost. So, time for practice, practice, practice, and a little (ok, much) guidance from the people I write with.

  • Blip.fm: This is a pretty fun service. It’s kind of like Twitter, except every “blip” has a song mapped to it. The page has a built-in flash player so that you can listen to people’s (DJ’s) streams. I tried Pandora a while ago, and I picked it up again recently, and it just failed me. I can’t find the music that I like, and it always seems to bring in songs that don’t have the right sound for what I’m trying to get at.

    Blip.fm is nice because you can just pick the songs, or scan around to find people listening to stuff that you like. There are certainly DJ’s on Blip.fm who try to get as many listeners as possible, but I just use it to store songs that I like or that I found cool at any particular moment. Here’s my stream if you’re interested. Like I said, it’s what I like, not what you like, so be forewarned.

  • It’s weird what’s useful: I was able to apply the core technique of an image-processing algorithm that I learned at my last job (not anything they patented, if they’re reading) to a class project this semester. I’ve discussed it with the postdoc interested in the technique, and it promises to be lots of fun. Even cooler is that the application is mostly unrelated to image processing (though it could be used in that capacity).
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Why Do I Hate Writing Research Down?

Obviously, I don’t hate all writing, or else I wouldn’t have a blog. It’s also not true when it comes to documentation because code documentation is one of the things that I try to do habitually and that I harped on all the time while I was an engineer. For some reason, though, I can’t motivate myself to write my research down, even though I view it as essential and essentially the same as code documentation. I need to pull my own teeth to start writing.

Even now, I’m experiencing an incredible stubbornness to just doing it. I have a deadline (not for a conference) to get something written down soon, which will serve to get some material written, but I would much rather be personally motivated to do it. If I want to do it, I’ll do it better. So I’m writing this out as an exercise to help me figure out why I’m being such an ass about it, to glean some advice from my readers, and maybe to help anyone else who is having trouble with a similar motivation.

When put on the spot, I could probably invent a couple inane excuses as to why I don’t want to write. They wouldn’t be accurate, however, because I really don’t know why. So here’s a few possibilities:

  • Procrastination: This is incredibly likely, but it’s outweighed by the fact that I still don’t want to write under my imminent deadline.
  • Pride: Also another possibility. I’m not denying it, since pride often accompanies (if not causes) stubbornness. But what would it be pride over? That I shouldn’t have to write? I’ve been aware since I chose this career change that writing will be an integral part of my work. Whither the pride, then?
  • Perfectionism: A strong candidate, but writing is an iterative process, and perfectionism undoes writing by dragging it out, not preventing it from starting.
  • Fear: Hmm. I think I might be getting somewhere. I don’t know where exactly it would stem from, but since I typed the word, it’s lingering there.

I’ll pause there for now, and I’ll go over some of the suggestions that people have already given me for motivation (all good):

  • It’s necessary anyway: I’ll have to write anyway, and I’ll have to revise a bunch of times, so there’s no point in putting it off.
  • It will help reveal flaws: I both agree and disagree with this. Mostly I agree, but it’s a good enough reason to just write it down.
  • It will help in communicating the research verbally: I really like this idea, and I’m eager to try it out. Now if I could just get over the hump…
  • Write every day: John suggested this in the comments to help overcome the inertia. The procrastinator in me dislikes this idea, but I think it’s important enough to try.

I want to work this out now, as early as possible, so that I’m not wasting so much time trying to motivate myself to write. The fear thing seems weird to me. Am I just having a fear of rejection or judgment? I thought I made this change ready to face both.

So, readers, any suggestions on motivations? How did (do) you get over the hump? Do you think it’s just some stupid fear of rejection/judgment? Or is it something else?