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Wait but why

Today I found out I cannot possibly waste your time – not even if I tried to.

WAIT, isn’t that quite trivial? In a way yes, since you’re the only responsible for managing your own time. And reading this is solely your choice.

BUT, the way I came to this understanding as well as the context in which I did are not equally trivial. So that’s what I will cover in this post.

WHY? Who cares! I’m just going to ramble on about writing style, personal blogs, and religion. Somehow.


While aimlessly exploring the internet, I landed on wait but why.

I immediately loved Tim Urban’s style: direct, fun, and brutally honest.

I’d bet he crafted his writing with the utmost care, and yet it looks like (to me at least) he effortlessly scribbled it without worrying about the form.

Or maybe he truly does not worry at all about the form.

Either way, I like that – and it’s also something I want to integrate here.

You see, sometimes I weigh words a bit too much. Even though all I care about is just being able to share ideas on the internet.

Ok, a part of me will never stop editing. That’s because:

I have no qualms with the first two points, so let’s talk about the last one.

Bad reasons to edit

If your writing isn’t perfect, you suck (and no one will read it)

Just plain wrong. I, for one, couldn’t give two shits about that.

Sure, the right amount of quirkiness can add to the experience. But it can only make me like more the stuff I’d still have enjoyed in the first place.

And even when someone’s writing style makes me cringe: if what they have to say is interesting enough, I’ll just power through anyway.

If you leave that in, someone might get upset

I try to be mindful and respectful of others, but I also despise censorship.

I don’t think words can be inherently bad. They are empty, and we fill them with the meaning we want. Truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Someone will get upset whatever I do, and pleasing everyone is impossible. So I better choose carefully the kind of people who I am going to displease.

If you can make it better, you should

Better according to whom? Or what? There are about 42 gazillion ways to say the same thing, and yet no single best one.

I do want to make my writing nice and easy to read. But there’s a balance to be struck between the time I can save others and the time I can save myself.

And I’d rather you didn’t waste your precious time reading stuff you couldn’t care less about. But I also cannot know what you may find obvious or amazing.

(Ok, there are a few pointers actually, and that’s a topic that would deserve its own post. But here all I mean is: I may be very bad at telling what appeals to other people, in which case I should avoid being the judge of that. And also: you can always just skip whatever you don’t like, so there’s that.)

Good reasons to edit less

Even if you don’t like your writing, somebody else will

I blog partly because of the potential to raise questions (and we already agree on the best answer, so we certainly don’t need any more ultimate truths).

I don’t know who else will read my posts (it may well be no one ever, for all I care). But maybe they’ll enjoy even what I’d dismiss as dull or poorly written?

I should not let my personal opinions influence my public writing, especially because I just want to express myself and prospect different perspectives.

If you did write that, maybe there’s a good reason

I tend to write without outlines. As a result, I tend to digress quite a lot.

I often start with one main idea I want to share, and when I stop there my posts turn out to be extremely short and lovely. But usually there are at least 2 or 3 minor points I’d like to mention as well. As I go on, these quickly multiply.

So I end up feeling I need to cut stuff out. Hell, this whole section was not supposed to be here. But maybe I don’t know what is supposed to be here.

You can just publish it as it is, and move on

I mean, blogging is completely optional and also doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. So why should I be fretting over it?

Can’t I instead make peace with the fact I write because I want to, and accept that most of the times I don’t really know what is going to come out of it?

Maybe I should just revel in that, and stop trying to fight it.

(Ok, sometimes ruthless editing is indeed the way to go. You know, murder your darlings and all that jazz. It just makes tons of sense, and I’m all for that in both poetry and UX. But there’s a time and a place for everything.)

What triggered all this

By now I covered writing style and personal blogs. What about religion, then?

The ways of my brain can be tricky (and mostly obscure even to myself, despite my several attempts to understand how my mind works), but that’s very easy.

It’s just that I was reading Tim’s article How Religion Got in the Way when I realized how silly of me it is to think I can waste your time by writing.

Also, yesterday I read other posts on Wait But Why about fantastic animals such as the Social Survival Mammoth and the Instant Gratification Monkey.

(Oh, and incidentally, only now I figured out I had already watched a TED Talk by the very same Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator. It’s a great talk, and a great way to procrastinate 14 more minutes. Highly recommended!)

So maybe some other stuff was still sinking in. But as I was not even halfway through that article, it hit me: I knew why I liked Tim Urban’s writing style.

I am always thrilled to learn how other people’s life experience and thoughts can be so similar to (or different than) mine. And while I do appreciate good writing, I don’t read blogs to be impressed. I read them because I am looking for an authentic story (or should I say, an Authentic Voice) I can relate to.

WAIT, BUT WHY am I telling you this? (Ok, this joke gets old pretty quick.)

I mean, what does all that even have to do with me wasting your time?

Writing effort and reading time

Thing is, I don’t think it’d be fair to inflict a wall of text onto you. Not when I can write the same thing in a way that’s both shorter and easier to read.

Sure, there’s a time and a place for unedited stream of consciousness, too. Usually though, editing is like welcoming people into your writing. Just like you would welcome a guest into your house by tidying up.

In other words: if you write for others, it’s not nice to put all the cognitive load on them. Editing lets you take some weight off their shoulders. But then the question is: how hard should you go on yourself to make it easier on them?

Readers don’t need to be spoon-fed. Don’t fall for the overprotective parent syndrome. There are diminishing returns, and too much is often detrimental.

Even worse: over-editing can make you self-conscious to the point of losing sight of your true self (or your inner Authentic Voice, for fellow WBW readers).

I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but I often rephrase stuff based on the sheer looks of the text, on the number of lines, or on the number of characters in a single line – sometimes in such stupidly arbitrary ways that are almost poetic.

(In my defense, I haven’t been doing that for this post. At least, not everywhere!)

So yeah, I don’t mean to shove messy, lengthy, low-quality writing on you. But if I go overboard with polishing it, I do a disservice to both you and myself.

After all, I like personal blogs exactly because they are personal. And I don’t even care about them being perfect, for personality trumps perfection!