After another long hiatus—five months—I now have a list of topics on which I have concrete ideas, which might be enough to start regular writing. Writing six or seven items in quick succession will hopefully establish a habit.

Apropos the long delay, a discussion of writer's block, for the delay testifies to a lack of confidence in the value of my writing. I address the various aspects of this doubt in turn.

What authority can I claim? The cliché "the more I learn, the less I know" is painfully relevant. It has become habit, as I form an opinion, to check Google, Wikipedia, as many newspapers as I can locate and any other source that might be an authority on the topic. Inevitably I find my initial position to be naïve, uninformed, or already recorded by some other source—usually with more eloquence and rigor than I could summon. What is the use of writing, then?

The simple rejoinder is that everyone is in the same bind. If, in stating my own opinion or view, I can reference the better sources on which it rests, then the reader can at least use my work as direction to further study. If I juxtapose competing views is a unique way, another view is formed that someone may find worthy of adoption.

Who should be my audience? Cynically, no one. If I forgo shouting into the void, however, I should select a group to address. How to choose this group? If I do it on a topic-by-topic basis, I will end up trying to instruct my betters. At worst my writing will seem inconsistent and variable, especially when the audience is not stated directly. In attempting to address too large a group I would lose useful context. If I choose too small a group I will only rant.

The easiest audience to consider is the sum of my friends, family, classmates and other peers. If I imagine this group doing me the honour of sitting to hear me speak, I will save myself the trouble of reiterating basic concepts; I will not feel pressured to posture and impress; and I can expect a sympathetic allowance when my words or arguments are awkward.

What format should I use? This encompasses several other problems. Should I repeat entirely my thoughts on a topic? If not, which parts should I omit? Will an arbitrary set length be restrictive? How do I avoid prattle? If I reflect, the chief difficulty in the past has been untangling a certain issue from those closely related. In engineering problems and subsystems are usually well-delineated, but to separate most other things is difficult, especially as I try to hold a holistic world-view. To borrow a programming term, my writing always suffers "feature creep."

For the sake of prolificacy, I will limit any post to a short essay. This one is already over 500 words, more than I can reasonably ask most to wade through. Shorter posts can be more numerous, are much easier to proofread, and most importantly will force me to distill my unruly thoughts.

So—onwards and upwards! The next post is due within a week; the topic will be consumerism.


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