Sunday, February 05, 2017

Why Doesn't Rory Write?

I think the last stretch has been the longest time without a post since the blog started. There are nonexistent, rational and irrational reasons for my dry spells. Going to walk them out a bit.

Nonexistent reasons include writer's block and lack of time. I don't get writer's block. There are times, probably most of the time, when I don't feel like writing. Some of the reasons for the feelings will come in the rational and irrational lists below. But just because I don't feel like it doesn't mean I can't do it. Writing is like any other job-- you show up, you do the work. And honestly, I think my uninspired writing is technically better and far more readable than when I'm in the zone. In the zone I'm writing to myself and use all kinds of shorthand and personal language that doesn't translate to anyone else.
And time. I don't always have hours to write, but I always have minutes. And if I ever start using the time excuse, I just have to monitor the minutes and hours I spend doing unproductive things, but that would be embarrassing.

Rational reasons.
Writing on other stuff. Time writing here is not time spent writing for Conflict Manager Magazine or working on the next book. And the next book (On Principles-based instruction) took a ridiculous amount of effort in the rewrite.

Too personal/too public. A lot of the most interesting things I am observing now are people. Instructors, students, classes. And, frankly, I sometimes see some weird and disturbing shit I'd like to think about out loud on the blog... but I don't want to deal with the e-mails of "Dude, were you talking about me?" Most people talk others down to build themselves up. Even if that's not my intention, I refuse to follow the pattern. It was okay when I was doing the blog as an anonymous jail guard, now that it's part of my living, it would violate my ethics.
I do have a backlog of good ideas, but it might take a year or two for time to create anonymity.

On the line between rational and irrational.
Swiss cheese brain. It might be the concussions, or age, or simply volume, but I'm worried about repeating myself, turning into the old guy in the corner telling the same stories over and over again.

Relevance. I've influenced enough people who are coming into their own as instructors and writers that there is a very visible next generation. I also don't want to be the old guy struggling to stay relevant when his first-hand perspective is a decade out of date.

These are the deep ones. The things actually affecting my performance are all known cognitive biases. But they still work.

Imposter syndrome. Everyone I know who is really good at what they do has a voice in the back of his or her head telling them that they suck. The book that kicked my ass over the last year is about how to teach, which is something I've only been doing full time for eight years. Who the fuck am I to write on that subject? One of the first readers (those are the people kind enough to critique the first draft) gave me a list of educational reference books to back up my points, but my reaction was, "how would I dare to write if I wasn't already familiar with the literature..."

Blockheads. One of the recognized cognitive biases is the human tendency to assign more weight to bad outcomes than good ones. I taught roughly 900 people last year, and I remember the three who just couldn't get it. Occasionally, you'll see it in a comment here, where someone writes, "What about..." And I want to reply, "You mean the thing I addressed directly in the very first paragraph?"

Tribalism.The election season hit me hard. Not the politics itself. On social media I watched friends, people who I consider thoughtful, advocate violence as an acceptable response to words. Declare that people who disagreed with their own opinions should be exterminated. Characterize their sides acts of violence as "free expression" and the other side's violent words as "vicious oppression." I saw the Orwellian doublethink hard and it was coming from the bottom up, not the top down.

That was what I wanted to write about most and there's really no way to talk about it. Once tribalism is triggered, people are out of their neocortex anyway. The people who are staying rational don't need to hear logical breakdowns, they have their own. The ones who most need to hear it are incapable, and convinced that their opinions are already based in logic and "truth." (Pro tip, if you ever catch yourself screaming that you're being rational, you aren't being rational.)

It sucked bad enough that I wanted to fall back to my own immediate tribe, and not even all the members of that.

Tribalism is true, but it's under irrational. Because that bullshit has nothing to do with what I write about here. Different parts of my life. But it made a damn good excuse to write and delete.


David Kafri said...

Tribalism is bad and Orwellianism too, we have both here as well and it looks about to role over everything, but I just came across a different angle to some of it and thought I might share (not sure how much I agree, but it is thought-provoking):
"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture."

Take care,

Unknown said...

I look forward to your writings. They are always thought provoking.

Josh said...

I realize you just said you did not want to do this, but I would LOVE reading posts from you on the current political situation.

I am in the tribal bubble that is currently having a full-on panic attack (probably the same bubble that it is saying violence against people who are talking is okay). I am very aware that 95% of what I am hearing from my tribe is FUD that is ungrounded in reality. But the other 5% is genuinely scaring me.

So intelligent, thoughtful commentary from someone outside of that tribe, who gets the distinction between concepts and reality, is very grounding from my vantage point.

There are not enough voices of sanity in the world right now. Totally makes sense that you don't want to be one -- I cringe every time I write something publically these days -- but just so you know, there are people out there who would cheer you on.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Rory. May I suggest you trust your instinct and not write if you don't feel like it. The minute you write to stay relevant, to be heard, your voice will resonate no more than those of the millions of blowhards on Facebook and Twitter.

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

Agent Cbeppa said...

Hey, good to hear from you again! I was actually killing time on the internet to avoid writing, but this post inspired me once again to squash the mean voice and get back to it. Thanks for the help.

Brandon said...

Not to be a bummer, but 60% of people will kill if an authority tells them it will be free of consequences as shown in the Milgram experiment. It's been replicated a few times even with a puppy and the results are still valid.

Brandon said...

I hate to be a double poster, but if you're seeing something that would be beneficial to students than I think you have an obligation to write about it. We are either on the side of the instructor or the side of the students. I might be mistaken, but from your books and other blog posts you seem to be fiercely on the side of the student. You might piss off some instructors, but I think you'll still have the support of all the people who appreciate your work, but don't have the opportunity for face to face interactions.

Josh Kruschke said...

Rory doesn't owe anyone anything.