I think I found what I was thinking of! It wasn’t George H. Smith, it was Jeff Riggenbach. Smith published it in a “short-lived online zine” of his and reposted it here. (It’s a review of Ayn Rand’s The Art of Nonfiction. Be warned that the formatting isn’t quite right—block quotes from the book are not formatted differently from the text of the review.)
A couple excerpts:
“Do not make time a constant pressure,” she cautions. “Do not judge your progress by each day; since the production of any written material is irregular, nobody but a hack can be sure how much he will produce in a given day”.
Apparently, then, every newspaperman or –woman, every columnist, every reviewer, every editorial writer who ever had to meet a daily deadline, is a hack, writing only what comes easily. Well, as one of their number, I’ll testify that, yes, hacks they assuredly are, but they do not write only what comes easily. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, I earned some portion of my income (anywhere from around ten percent to around eighty percent, depending on the year) by writing for newspapers. I wrote a variety of things, but probably ninety percent of my output was editorials, book reviews, and Op Ed articles (opinion articles that appear on the page Opposite the Editorial page).
Writers who face tight deadlines on a regular basis have no time for extensive revision and editing. They have to get it right the first time.
George H. Smith said something once, maybe in an email discussion group or something. I can't find it now but it was something along the lines of:
When he first started writing he did the standard thing of writing a first draft then rewriting it. But after spending years writing a large quantity of (short) complete pieces, many of them on a deadline, he got so he could usually just write it right the first time through—the second editing pass was only needed to fix typos.
Thanks for the response! (I've seen you say similar stuff about "akrasia" once or twice before and had been meaning to ask you about it. I'll think about this.)
("Meditations on Moloch" link for anyone who didn't understand the reference.)
Edit: I rewrote this to use "Alice" and "Bob" instead of "you" and "me" as characters to clarify that it's a thought experiment and not a question about Less Wrong user arundelo (though it is inspired by actual events). I also added a paragraph at the end.
Let's say Alice asks Bob why he didn't watch the most recent episode of $TVSHOW and he says, "I didn't feel like it", and she asks for more detail. He might tell her that he doesn't really like $TVSHOW, or that he likes it but wasn't in the mood and maybe will watch it tomorrow.
Now let's say she asks him why he didn't work today and he says, "I didn't feel like it", and she asks for more detail. He might tell her that he decided to take a day off because he's been working a lot lately, or because the weather was nice and he wanted to spend the day hiking.
All these responses seem pretty similar compared to Bob telling Alice, "I don't know why I didn't feel like working. I guess work is hard and I'd rather goof off. Or maybe I have some sort of subconscious fear that if I do work I'll prove that I'm stupid or incompetent. But I've only worked a couple hours so far this week and I get paid by the hour, and I'm afraid I'm gonna be late to pay my rent again, and my landlord told me if I'm late again she's going to file an eviction notice."
The most important thing is solving the problem, which may involve figuring out if Bob does have a subconscious fear of failure or whatever. But when I use words like "akrasia" or "procrastination", I'm using them as shorthand for long descriptions like the one in the previous paragraph.
Is it really worthwhile for Bob to avoid the words "akrasia" and "procrastination"? If so, should his short answer to "Why didn't you work today?" really be "I didn't feel like it"? Or is there something better?
This account has been posting spam since April 2017 (though all of their old comments have been deleted and are visible only on their overview and comments pages).
He has plugged it or mentioned it in at least three open thread posts but I had trouble finding them. They all call it a "community center" but none uses the names "Berkeley" or "REACH" (or Sarah Spikes's last name).
Correction: The first one does say it's in Berkeley (but not as part of the name so I missed it when looking at search results).