1. Writing code as compared to writing english

And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning.

Anthony Burgess

People who know english can write op-eds, essays and blog posts which accomplish the objective the author intends. The author is able to get their point across, and elicit the desired response in the reader. Within reason of course, but it works. This is akin to writing small programs, single file apps. Scripts.

There’s a difference between that, and the longer narrative structure of a novel, or even a series of novels, ie Game of Thrones. There’s a degree of engineering which has gone in to developing characters, longer interweaving plotlines and story components. This is akin to engineering at scale, building complex distributed systems. Service architecture.

Both are referred to as ‘writing’. Both have small and big modalities and degrees of complexity. Both communicate ideas and weave structure from syntax.

I’ve always found teaching programming to be interesting, especially intro programming. It’s a double-bind of learning a new language and a new way of thinking, simultaneously. Nothing is extraneous. Everything can be explored to a deep level, all rocks can be overturned if the student is curious and persistent and if the teacher is up to the task.

I don’t really understand writing through the same lens. I’m decent at writing code, though I’m much worse at writing English. I think it’s got something to do with having a “voice”, in the written sense. I grok the idea that writing is thinking, that it’s useful to serialize ones ideas in order to develop them or at least to get them out of your head so that you can move to the next thing rather than spin in circles endlessly. I find proofreading to be boring. There’s no compiler, when you’re writing english. Nothing to have your back, to make sure that the structure you’re shaping makes any sense at all. Most of my writing feels very stream-of-consciousness, though simultaneously I feel shaky and unsure of my ability so serialize my thoughts onto the page.

Sometimes in conversation I feel in my bones that what I’m saying makes sense, that the ideas are flowing together, that I’m communicating a thought properly. But I find that state hard to access when writing.

– Practice more writing
– Try out dialogue styles to try to access that state of flow

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