The Art of Gitting Gud

It's been a while since I posted something here. This has not been for lack of exciting things in my life — I wrote Arduino for the first time, trained my first neural net, and polished off a six-month-long React project.

So why, then, no reports on these interesting and possibly trendy adventures? More difficult than debugging char * Arrays, more daunting than teaching a machine to classify speech, is sitting down and actually writing about all of it.

One main reason that I created this blog was to get better at writing. I love to write, and I've practiced it in one form or another since elementary school. Since writing is filed under "things I enjoy", I figured that once I made a blog, posts would flow to fill its shape.

I had forgotten, however, how vital it is not just to like a thing but to allow yourself to like that thing. I assumed that as I did interesting things, prose would generate itself almost as a side effect, fully-formed and ready to publish.

Reality has not borne this out.

My writing ability — that is, my aptitude for stringing words together; for forming a narrative — will always and forever need improving, but it's acceptable. (I've heard that the worst code ever written is the code that you yourself wrote six months ago. I hope that my writing follows this pattern.)

But there's another component of writing ability, and this is where I fall flat. This component has nothing to do with mastery of language; it's concerned with letting myself at language in the first place. What kind of time, what kind of space do I give myself to write? Do I allow myself to focus for long enough to even jot down an outline?

It was late in freshman year of college that I realized how effortless it was to be purely a consumer and not a creator. I remember that thought (in an uncommon way) slipping small and crystalized into my mind, a pressure against my skull. I've tried to stay aware of that fact, and to keep myself in check. Create; make something; remember how to make something. What if I lose practice? What if I forget how to create?

I began to understand the effort that goes into creation, but I hadn't yet been tested for my own willingness to expend that effort. Again, I was in college. I no longer had time for art projects, but I was ordered to spend a month comparing editions of the Quijote; I was told to write translations and program translators and dissect the differences between turn-of-the-century European authors. I began to learn how to create my own time, my own focus, but I did not achieve proficiency in it. Outside of my mandated, protected time, I dove into the internet, read books aimlessly, and, after a breakup, binge-watched all of Avatar: the Last Airbender.

When all was said and done, I was very good at writing when someone else made me do it. Did I have my own passions; did I find things interesting? Absolutely. But I wasn't lifting a finger to express or magnify those pursuits.

Years later, I began to understand what adults were getting at when they acted impressed that so-and-so was in a community choir, or taking a German class, or sowing a garden. They weren't necessarily blown away by someone's vocal prowess, but they deeply understood the power of inertia. It's infinitely harder to do anything than it is to do nothing.

When I created this blog, I initially did allow myself to write. I recorded post ideas as they occurred to me; I drafted outlines during downtime at work; I blocked out time on alternating weekends to do the actual writing. This, a voice whispered, is temporary. Soon you'll be so good at writing that it'll just happen. I imagined that, with some practice, I'd be able to be struck by an idea, transmute it into words, edit a bit, and send it off into the internet vastness.

I may be able to do this someday, but not yet. I made the mistake of thinking that I was almost there — this week I could go away for the weekend, make no allowance for writing, and figure something out in an hour or two on Monday evening. Never mind that previous blog posts had required working four hours a day for two, three days in a row. Never mind that Monday evening would find me on the couch watching a show to unwind because I was so done with work after getting home from my job and prepping dinner and doing all the miscellaneous things that life requires. I would do it Tuesday? Or the next weekend? Tomorrow Me would definitely feel peppier, more inspired.

This post took me days to write. Those days were not spent drafting and editing; those days lived in the space between when this urgent, personal idea occured to me and when I put pen to paper and actually sat down and wrote the damn thing.

And finally, I circle back around to the title of this post: The art of gitting gud. I don't mean Scrooge; it's not about having a change of heart. I mean getting good like Dark Souls like a note I have taped to my fridge, GIT GUD.

A screenshot of a tumblr update. Text says: 'I'm afraid he's been infected with the casual. He's just going to have'. Image below text is of a doctor wearing a knight's helmet, pointing to a clipboard that has 'git gud' written on it

"git gud" entered my consciousness when the notoriously difficult videogame Dark Souls was released; it was advice frequently offered to players seeking help. While on the surface, it's unhelpful and possibly adversarial, it communicates an important truth: sometimes there are no shortcuts to getting what you want. The only way forward is to practice, to sink in the hours and the effort until, someday, you git gud.

Writing is something that I will improve only through practice. I need to respect it more, acknowledge its difficulty, and invest the focus and the time into working on it.

I don't know how long it will be for me to feel like I've improved; I don't know how long until I've actually improved. But for me, this is difficult. And the only way to make it easier is to git gud.