January 7, 2018
Years ago I was driving Maggie and a friend somewhere and they were talking about writers.
At the time I was working as a full-time writer and editor. That year I wrote a couple of books, dozens of articles, and blogged every weekday as editor of java.net back when it was a great site.
I knew the answers to the questions Maggie had about writing and so I gently said something like, "you know, I'm a writer."
Maggie rolled her eyes and said, "it's not like you're J.K. Rowling or something."
I say that because I'm about to tell you of something I've decided to do because of Scott McCloud but I want you to know that I know it's not like I'm Scott McCloud or something.
Most of my writing and teaching is on how to code.
I think a lot about presenting tough concepts and have learned a lot over the years from television and screenwriters.
I've also been looking into using techniques from comics in teaching and writing.
I read "Understanding Comics" by Scot McCloud and am currently rereading it more carefully.
This past fall I took a course from Tom Hart at the Sequential Artists Workshop and learned a lot.
For me, the obstacle has been that the best television, features, and comics are often character driven.
I'm currently looking at explaining functional programming ideas and I don't really have a character.
I don't want a character who is a thin proxy for the reader asking questions and then summarizing explanations. That feels to me like the television character who turns to the person next to them and says "Sue, as you know, you are my sister and even though we haven't seen each other in ten years because we were separated by ..."
I have a feeling that comics can help but I have so many questions.
Scott McCloud has the answers.
Not only that, but he's working on a book on the subject.
Scott is a careful and thorough guy, so I'm just going to have to wait to see what he has to say about this.
That frustrates the hell out of me.
I know his final work is going to be worth waiting for. I know what he has now isn't as good as the final product is going to be. But, I'd love to see where he is now so that I can benefit from that much.
And then I realized that I'm doing the exact same thing with my readers.
I've talked about some of the books I'd like to write next for quite a while. I've been workshopping some of the material and it's just not ready yet. I'm missing some key metaphors. There are concepts I don't yet understand deeply enough to explain them simply.
I've already stipulated that it's not like I'm Scott McCloud or something - but if I want him to share what he has, why aren't I sharing what I have.
And so I will.
This year I'm going to try to show you more of what I'm working on while I'm working on it.
In addition, I'm going to invite you to comment on what I show you if you like.
I have no idea if this is going to work.
It may be frustrating to you to see how slowly I work or to see projects that never finish.
It may not be interesting to you at all and may just be noise.
The conversation might get inappropriate and out of hand.
If it doesn't work, I'll stop at the end of this year, but I think it's worth trying.
So my three words for this year are "And Then", "Do it", and "In Public".
I think this new project embraces all three.