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Getting Good

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After reading an essay or listening to a talk I really like, I often immediately try to find the author’s (or speaker’s) earlier work. At first, it started because I was about the other things the author has made, but it’s now a habit I practice whenever I see work I admire.

I've found that I often underestimate how long people spend creating the kind of work I admire. For example, three of my favourite software engineering blogs are Julia Evans', Joel Spolsky's, and Hillel Wayne's. I’ve enjoyed reading much of their writing, but the breadth of their blog archives, dozens of posts over several years, is just as fascinating to me. And it happens with many other different things I read and watch. I find myself thinking, “Oh wow, this essay is so good. I wonder what it takes to write this well.” And when I check the archives, I find the answer: the author has been writing for twenty years.

I find consistency in creative work inspiring whenever I come across it, but what strikes me even more is seeing the gradual improvement over time. I marvel when I compare the older work of makers I admire to their more recent work. And then I think, why should I? Why shouldn’t their work have gotten so much better after so long? And somewhere there, I find a lesson for myself, cliche but true: growth comes with consistency and getting good takes work.