I’ve been working this week on the first of the long contemplative computing essays, and so far I think it’s gone pretty well. The kids left on Monday, so I really got into it starting on Tuesday; fortunately, having written pretty regularly on the blog, I had a lot of raw material to start with– about 15,000 words, much of it extracts from other people’s work, of course, but still better than starting from zero.

This week my wife and I decided to try working more like locals. Thursday night we went to our local pub, the Issac Newton, had dinner, then another drink while we kept working.

Isaac Newton pub
the isaac newton, via flickr

I generally don’t drink much, and usually the relationship between alcohol and inspiration is not a very stable one for me– I get sleepy rather than creative– but this time it worked.

Friday we were going to go to evensong at King’s, but it was cancelled, so we went to the Eagle instead.

Drinks at the Eagle
drinks at the eagle, via flickr

Despite it being a brilliantly cerebral place during the day, Friday night is not exactly the right time to pull out the laptops and write over a couple pints, so we repaired to Yo! Sushi for dinner.

Yo! Sushi!
sushi travelator! food of the future! via flickr

After that, it was over to Clowns of Cambridge for coffee.

Dessert and writing at Clowns
double double lattes, via flickr

Altogether, it was quite productive for me. I’m still working on the piece, but it feels like it’s coming together well.

I know at the end of this I’m going to think to myself, why couldn’t I have written this thing in half the time? I always think that with a piece I’m happy with: if the flow is logical, the argument makes sense, I wonder why I couldn’t just write that at the beginning, and forget about all those dead ends and intermediate drafts and Baroque phraseologies that I created and then discarded on my way to something simple and direct.

Dessert and writing at Clowns
revisions of the article, via flickr

Of course, I’ve been doing this long enough to know I can’t really get to the simple, direct statement without going through all the complicated stuff. Maybe other people can, but that’s not how I work, or how my writing brain works. For me, writing is an exercise in obliquity, a roundabout process to generate something simple.