Exponential curves, autocatalysis, or reinforcing feedbacks loops. While these ideas can be found in range of media from formal publications to every self-help blog that’s ever existed, I think none has quite expressed the abstract idea in as compelling a form as Andy Matuschak’s essay on sight reading. It’s wonderfully written and well worth a read before moving on, but a general summary is how his relatively poor sight reading skills led to learning less pieces and hence worse sight reading skills. But what’s most insightful isn’t that he was stuck in a negative feedback loop; but rather, that implicit practice wasn’t enough to get him out of it.
He then goes on to show another example in design, but I’d like to reflect a bit on how my own writing has suffered from this. Initially, this website was supposed to be a place for me to collect interesting questions and do my best to answer them with questionable research. It was meant to be a place to divulge my curiousity while uncovering more and more interesting questions. Instead, I’ve set such a high bar for myself where each piece has to be thoroughly researched with dozens of references to show my learnedness that I don’t end up publishing much of what I write. I’ve got too many drafts and not enough to show for it.
Because each screed takes so long, my hard skills of querying, researching, and writing don’t improve as fast as they could. Then they ossify and the next piece takes longer to write than the last. That being said, I’m going to try and return to my original ethos and do my best to flesh out one question I’ve had into an “essay” every week. Hopefully by breaking down the unit size of each piece, I’m able to iterate quicker on those skills and express my ideas more eloquently by the end of it.
More pressing than just answering questions is the task of addressing unjustified beliefs. These are beliefs you hold off intuition or without much concrete evidence.
Practicing sight reading, writing small scripts, and putting out half baked essays isn’t sexy, but these are the hard skills needed to keep improving qualitative performance. I suppose here’s Half Baked Essay #1.