I Break Horses

Blog of Jacob Burch

The Paralysis of Coming Soon

I’ve owned both the .com and .net domains of my own name for over five years now. I’ve renewed the fees through birthday check money from my grandparents, working at a pretzel stand, freelance payments, loans from UCLA, and most recently from a bonafide grown-up pay check. I’ve hosted the domains through at least three different providers, utilized them as the landing spaces for a dozen or so of my private side projects and each has had have had a score of downtime episodes. The only thing that’s stayed the same about them for the last half decade are the words “Coming Soon”.

Over the last few years, I’ve harvested away in my Google Reader quite a number of blogs across my varied interests. Every post from terrific writers such as Alex Payne, Jacob Kaplan-Moss, Hugo Schyzer or Josh Wilker strengthened two disappointedly opposing emotions: the passion to write and the fear of being a hack with an audience of none.

The desire to write —- or, at least, blog —- is easy enough to understand. Whether due to a desire for connection, an attempt to participate in the the economy of ideas, a hope to be noticed or simple vanity, people of all walks really dig the idea of throwing even a little bit of text for the world to see and being able to call it //theirs//. The bottom lines of seemingly half of the modern internet industry bank on this motivation, and the ease of the tools available for it make technical prowess a non-issue.

Sadly, the fear of inadequacy puts out even the greatest inspirational fires until they’ve been hosed into ashes of ‘eventually.’ I first came across this emotional defeat when working on programming side projects. I’d spend days and sometimes week trying to decide the best way to build a data abstraction layer, weighing the different possibility of grid theories or picking a shade of blue for links. After complaining about this, my boss and mentor at the time gave me the name of the condition: Analysis Paralysis. When I struggled with the same condition later on in life as an essay-churning English Major, a professor reminded me of paraphrased Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Knowing that I wasn’t alone and that the best sufferes just had to learn the value of ‘good enough’ helped me (mostly) churn out working code and passable essays. But I wasn’t quite ready to solve the bigger blogging dilemma.

As quoted by Marco Arment, Jake Lodwick wrote his farewell post, to blog “is to have some portion of your brain assigned to monitoring your audience.” Ensuring I would be able to please an entire singular audience froze me for not just the week it takes to write an essay, but for years on end. With no due date or deadline, I was given unlimited time to worry writing about everything I love leaves nobody perfectly interested. How many people who care about my my latest thoughts on programming and technology care about my love of the Colts, or my adventure in learning to love Hockey? Are my personal struggles with faith and social issues a care at all to people who want to read about four flushes, Zergling rushes or Neutral Milk Hotel? And does anyone really want to hear me gripe about Los Angeles Traffic?

I wish I had some thoughtful insight as to how I overcame what I imagine is a fairly common problem. Some epiphany that made everything clear and got this blog up. But there isn’t. I made a bet with a good friend, buying him three dozen cookies every month I didn’t have a blog up. Thirty dollars and more than a hundred cookies later, it was enough, and the easiest solution was to constantly tell myself to just not care and write what came to mind–and to never, ever settle for “soon.”