Why I'm Blooking

by Eliezer Yudkowsky1 min read15th Sep 200720 comments


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Yesterday being my 100th Overcoming Bias post, it seems an opportune time to answer a commenter's question:  Why am I posting?

For a long time I've suffered from writer's molasses.  Like writer's block, only instead of not writing, I write very slooowly. At least when it comes to writing Documents - papers, book chapters, website material.  If I haven't published a hundred papers, it's not for lack of a hundred ideas, but because writing one paper - at my current pace - takes four months full time.  I sometimes wonder if I could become a respectable academic if I wrote at a respectable pace.

Oddly enough, I can write most emails around as fast as I type. Such disorders are hard to self-diagnose, but I suspect that part of the problem is that on Documents I repeatedly reread and tweak material I've already written, instead of writing new material.  James Hogan (an SF author) once told me that he was more productive on a typewriter than a word processor, because the typewriter prevented him from tweaking until the second draft.

A blook is a collection of blog posts that have been edited into a book.  Logically, then, publishing a book as a series of blog posts ought to be known as "blooking".

It would be more precise to say that I'm generating raw material to be edited into a book, and collecting some feedback along the way. I make no promises for this project.  (I hate promising anything unless I have already done it.)  The first part of the plan, generating the raw material as blog posts, has proceeded at a respectable pace so far.  Will I be able to edit the posts into chapters, so long as all the raw material is there?  Will I be able to generate all the raw material, or will the project, ahem, "blog down"?

In August I decided that I was going to write one blog post per day for Overcoming Bias.  This challenge began to hone my writing speed somewhat - for example, I would look at the clock and try not to take longer than an hour... or three hours... but nonetheless I began to feel the need to shove the post out the door instead of perfecting it further.  This is necessary and proper.

Near the end of August, I faced a new challenge - I also had to prepare two talks for the Singularity Summit 2007 (Sep 8-9).  Those were actual Documents.  I knew, from previous experience, that I couldn't possibly prepare the two talks and also keep up the pace of blogging on Overcoming Bias.  Blogging was using up all my writing energy already - I have only a limited supply of words per day.  If I overreach one day's budget I can't write at all the next day.  So (I knew) I would have to temporarily stop blogging and resume after the Summit.

And then I said to myself, Hey, if I never try to do anything "impossible", I'll never grow.

I decided I would keep up the pace on Overcoming Bias while simultaneously writing my two Summit talks.  Tsuyoku naritai!

I lost sleep, and skipped exercise.  But I did it.  I'll remember that the next time I'm thinking of trying something impossible.

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