Over time, I’ve picked up ideas from multiple authors and they finally clicked together for me:
- Simplify your writing - by William Zinsser, On Writing Well
- Short URLs - by Derek Sivers, Blog
- Quantity over Quality - by James Clear, Atomic Habits
This really struck me in “On Writing Well”:
The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what – these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.— excerpt from “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser
Strip away the complexity from writing to make it clear and concise. Good writing is simple writing. Simple words. Short sentences.
The same principle can be applied to URLs as well. Derek really got me thinking with his post ”Short URLs: why and how”. I’m a big fan of simplification. Good code is simple code and good writing is simple writing. Shouldn’t the same thing apply to URLs?
The only reason for having a keyword soup in URLs is because it’s called “SEO Optimization”. What if I didn’t care about that?
Instead, I can let the search engine do its best to prioritize search results, and I can do my best to focus on writing instead.
Good ideas emphasize each other and that’s where this clicked for me.
Writing with simplicity in mind I’m free to focus on actually writing more. This is where “the photography experiment” that I read in Atomic Habits comes in.
On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida divided his film photography students into two groups.
Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced.
On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.
Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image. At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.— excerpt from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
My blog is a playground for ideas. I can write short posts with simple URLs to practice writing.
I keep coming back to this idea time and time again - producing something perfect is a great aspiration that’s not grounded in reality. Every post doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Writing is an exercise in thinking, that’s already good enough. Just like students learning photography, I’m improving writing.
The only way to do that to write more, but also less.