Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

The Art of Writing, the Science of Procrastination

“Everyone has a book in them,” allegedly said Christopher Hitchens, an influential journalist, writer, and literary critic. Itching for a creative outlet for a while, and enthused with the concept and content of CodeLikeAGirl, that mug-worthy quote was motivation enough to offer to contribute to the site. Curious about the author of that heart-warming sentence, I did some quick research and discovered that a crucial part was omitted, and that part said, “but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.”

Lesson learned:

if (inspiration > 0){

classify = “positive”;

margarita.makeanother ();

else {

classify = “negative”;

inspiration.searchfurther ();

}

//The author clearly has an atrophied coding muscle and is under heavy influence of margaritas

After the team added me as a writer, I soon fell into my Alice mode, exhilarated that after seven years, my inner monologue will be released into the world. While flying through the rabbit hole, towards the center of the earth, I passed several semi-finished personal projects and a multitude of “brilliant” ideas that never grew up, all the while bumping into bent shelves which homed spider-web covered artifacts of my mental hyperactivity.

After the initial “I can do it” thrust accompanied by yellow and blue belly butterflies, it’s “Can you… really?” troll twin reared its beastly head. Writing a still non-existing nameless article with no specific deadline, subject or any other kind of limitations or expectations is no joking matter after all. In order to be able to write proper English, I first had to do some serious procra…um, exploration. After wandering aimlessly through the WWW vortex for hours, I finally bumped into “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. — one of the most influential books on American English grammar and writing. I managed to read the damn thing yawning through sentences such as “The extent of subdivision will vary with the length of the composition.” I soon repented my ambitious endeavor, since it left me feeling pressed by a dead guy’s expectations on the clarity, conciseness, and forcefulness of my writing.

Although the book was very useful, it had an almost discouraging effect given the stiff rules to be followed for English grammar and form. As a non-native speaker, I could certainly never fit into these shoes of lead. My right foot was slowly turning towards the exit — heartlessly gliding in a lame attempt to sneak out of the whole thing without making a sound. Faith would have it that in the midst of my self-doubt dance, I bumped into a BuzzFeed article that had more grammatical errors than a Kardashian selfie caption (in the first version of this text I wrote “gramatic” instead of grammatical and also misspelled “Kardashian,” but that is something that I’m almost proud of). Ah…to err is to be human. I sighed and scooped my writing valor off the floor, further strengthening my determination to write at least one mediocre post before giving up. Who knows how to read and write nowadays anyway?

Equipped with refreshed knowledge of principal requirements of the English language, I rose from that battle victoriously; keen to write the first draft today if not sooner (this was weeks ago). Hovering over the laptop, still in my Joan of Arc pose, it suddenly hit me. Writing is not only about grammar and style, it is, if anything, about life experience, wisdom, and substance. Fuck. I better go get me some of that. Straight to Scribd and back to the drawing/writing board. I read “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” realizing that everything is nothing, nothing is everything and I might not yet be able to clap with one hand, but I sure as hell can still use it for self-slapping.

My still burning face got stuck in one more book on the subject of writing and glimpsed through one ridiculously bad book on personal fashion style; my reluctant feet ran a hundred and thirty kilometers in total; my restless fingers installed five apps for writers; my obnoxious inner Martha Stewart (which emerges only in situations like this) color-coordinated my sock drawer. Still, zero lines written. A cheeky thought of my productive self to maybe sit behind the laptop and just start writing, was backhanded majestically by my brain which chose to first research the prices of writing machines; ’cause admit it, productive Matija, it would be so cool to hear the sound and to move that thingie from right to left, announcing a completion of one more line. While sailing on my procrastination bubble of bliss, I also decided to learn to play ukulele (can’t really reconstruct how the idea emerged) and colored my hair pink. Looks good.

Damned be the elusiveness of creative genius of writing, a genius that asks for, I would even dare to say feeds on, the jolly rides on the magic procrastination carpet. Elaborating the phenomenon of Procrasteron and calculating the gravity force on that planet would require old-testament style tomes, which I’m clearly not capable of thanks to my life-long focus handicap.

Writers throughout the history have mastered the skill of “doing anything but what you are supposed to be doing” triumphantly, leaving representatives of other professions in the dust. According to the book “Odd Type Writers,” Graham Greene needed a sign from above to begin working on a piece. Obsessed with numbers, the English playwright and novelist needed to see a certain combination of numbers by accident in order to write a single word. He would spend long periods of time by the side of the road looking at license plates and waiting for the hallowed number to appear.

Basically, you can procrastinate meaningfully — learn how to do calligraphy when your final goal is to write a short story based on China, or check (again) the new hairdo of your ex on your favorite social network. For a writer, and just about anyone else on the planet, procrastination is a great servant and a bad master. Its magic carpet flies you to new worlds, where you can learn funky things and rekindle your creativity. But be wary, there is a certain “point beyond return” after which the woods get darker and the oceans get deeper. Here be dragons.

Sometimes a grain of self-doubt can turn into rising dough powered by avoiding reality, which eventually can bring us to avoid real work, real love, and real life; thus realizing a self-fulfilling prophecy of not making it. Most people never made a move because they were too busy or something else was more important or they are just too damn old now. This stabbing thought pulled me through the rabbit hole and eventually got me to throw these words into the abyss, while once again confirming that the only thing harder than beginnings are comebacks.

To write, it takes grit, and by God, grit I shall have. Do or do not, there is no try.

In the next post, I will cover the subject of technical documentation, which is again meta-writing or writing on writing, but this next ramble someone might actually find useful