Our thoughts are prisoners locked in our brain. They never see the light of day until a physical medium comes along to transfer them out and, from there, they are transmitted through other physical mediums. In addition to their physical transference, they also need to be interpreted and reinterpreted. In other words, our thoughts need to be processed. The processing of our thoughts and expressions of those thoughts usually strives to be as accurate as possible so the original meaning is left in tact (though very often new meaning is injected into the original symbol by intentionally altering it).
The first and most important processing step is done by the creator, the one with the thought. During this step, creators somehow manage to take the thoughts bobbling around in their heads and organize them into symbols that can be interpreted and/or useful to others. These symbols are an indirect, physical manifestation of their thoughts. We use a variety of mediums for these expressions. For example, they can be expressed through our own bodies, like in gesturing or dance; or through our mouths, like in talking or singing; and moods and emotions can even be expressed through a musical instrument, like an electronic synthesizer.
The last example mentioned, the electronic synthesizer, is very similar to the writing instrument of interest in this essay, vim. Although how they physically transfer thoughts is completely different, one with sound and the other primarily through character symbols, they are quite similar in operation.
For one, they both have lots of buttons. They are both extremely flexible. And they both require a lot of training and practice before you can use them to accurately reflect what is in your head. Most importantly, they have incredible range. A synthesizer can play literally any sound imaginable and you can distort those sound to your heart’s content. Similarly, vim is very well adapted (with enough customizations) to write a novel or computer code or just about anything else you can imagine getting expressed with characters.
The most important similarity I want to focus on is that in order to truly master them, you have to learn how to be hyper-efficient with them.
The above is a very rough initial draft. Thrust of the article will be the importance of tweaking an instrument so it gets out of the way, so you don’t have to think about the tool while you are in the process of creating or documenting your thoughts. You want thinking about your thoughts to be your primary focus, not thinking about how to play instrument. And the more efficiently and quickly you can both document and access your thoughts, the better you will think.
This idea is not original (few of mine are). Damian Conway, a master Perl programmer, alluded to this concept while giving a presentation on his vim set up.
- Damian Conway quote:
- It’s such an extraordinary tool. It makes me more efficient, more productive, and even smarter…by keeping out of the way and helping me stay in the coding trance. I’d be lost without it.
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