Writing (or Any Creative Activity) and the Fear of Being Less Than Amazing

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

from “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators: The psychological origins of waiting (… and waiting, and waiting) to work” by Megan McArdle in The Atlantic, via John August.

“What if you could start over whenever you wanted?”

What if you could start over whenever you wanted? What if you could begin again? What if you could begin again again? What would you do differently if you could do it differently? When do you have the chance to do THAT?


Well, you can each time you step on a stage, sit before a blank page, pick up your axe, sit at the bench, stand by the easel. You just have to decide that you are starting fresh. All it takes is your being aware that always your point of view can be at the “Point of New.”

What’s stopping you from starting anew?


From an inspiring post: “Guest Post: Now’s The Time To Know The New by David Razowsky

We, the media consumers, are a big part of the problem

Yes, the media are the ones engaging in these practices. But the reason that they’re doing so is because we – the public – are gawking at the public displays of pain. Our collective fascination with tragedy means that we encourage media practices that rub salt into people’s wounds, all for the most salacious story. And worse, our social media practices mean that the media creators are tracking the kinds of stories that are forwarded. And my hunch is that people are forwarding precisely those salacious stories, even if to critique the practices (such as the interviews of children).
danah boyd, “Dear Media, Back The F*** Off Newtown” 

Reason #2978 why health insurance in the US is so expensive

From an opinion piece in the New York Times on the issue of society ignoring evidence that mammograms only increase medical procedures, they don’t save lives:

For years now, doctors like myself have known that screening mammography doesn’t save lives, or else saves so few that the harms far outweigh the benefits. Neither I nor my colleagues have a crystal ball, and we are not smarter than others who have looked at this issue. We simply read the results of the many mammography trials that have been conducted over the years. But the trial results were unpopular and did not fit with a broadly accepted ideology—early detection—which has, ironically, failed (ovarian, prostate cancer) as often as it has succeeded (cervical cancer, perhaps colon cancer).

More bluntly, the trial results threatened a mammogram economy, a marketplace sustained by invasive therapies to vanquish microscopic clumps of questionable threat, and by an endless parade of procedures and pictures to investigate the falsely positive results that more than half of women endure. And inexplicably, since the publication of these trial results challenging the value of screening mammograms, hundreds of millions of public dollars have been dedicated to ensuring mammogram access, and the test has become a war cry for cancer advocacy. Why? Because experience deludes: radiologists diagnose, surgeons cut, pathologists examine, oncologists treat, and women survive.

 Read the full essay.

A simple and sad reason why women make less money than men

Often, a woman will enter the salary negotiation phase and I’ll tell them a number will be sent to them in a couple days. Usually we start around $45k for an entry level position. 50% to 60% of the women I interview simply take this offer. It’s insane, I already know I can get authorization for more if you simply refuse. Inversely, almost 90% of the men I interview immediately ask for more upon getting the offer.


The next major mistake happens with how they ask for more. In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k. Company policy wont let me bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless they specifically request more. On the other hand, men more frequently will come back with a number along the lines of 65k to 75k, and I will be forced to negotiate down from there. After this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, not knowing they could have gotten more if they asked.


At the end, most of the women I hire make between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Even more crazy, they ask for raises far less often, so the disparity only grows.

From “I work for a large multinational tech company, I regularly hire woman for 65% to 75% of what males make. I am sick of it, here is why it happens, and how you can avoid it.” on Reddit

Two views on boredom

Two opinion pieces that arrive at much the same conclusion through very different routes:

My period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years, when every meeting felt like a play date with coma patients. I would sit in long meetings, pretending to pay attention while writing computer code in my mind and imagining the anatomically inspired nicknames I would assign to my boss after I won the lottery.

Years later, when “Dilbert” was in thousands of newspapers, people often asked me if I ever imagined being so lucky. I usually said no, because that’s the answer people expected. The truth is that I imagined every bit of good fortune that has come my way. But in my imagination I also invented a belt that would allow me to fly and had special permission from Congress to urinate like a bird wherever I wanted. I wake up every morning disappointed that I have to wear pants and walk. Imagination has a way of breeding disappointment.

“The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing To Do,” Scott Adams, The Wall Street Journal, 8/6/2011


So perhaps boredom is designed to encourage people to adapt their behavior and to protect them from social toxins, just as its first cousin disgust is designed, biologically speaking, to cause people to adapt their behavior to real physical toxins. Perhaps boredom should be viewed just as gout sometimes is, or angina or even mild strokes — as a sign of worse things to follow unless there’s a change in lifestyle. It’s not for nothing that the great Russian novelist Ivan Goncharov’s beguiling behemoth of boredom, the endearing Ilya Oblomov, perished of a stroke after a long lifetime of ignoring boredom’s siren signals. Boredom, I am saying, may play a salutary, evolutionary role in human life.
“The Thrill of Boredom,” Peter Toohey, The New York Times, 8/6/2011