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Editorial: Nerf Paper!

Editorial: Nerf Paper!

Issue 9.10
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You know the Rock, Paper, Scissors game. That game people play to make such life-altering decisions as who goes out to buy the milk, who picks the kids up from kindergarten, or who gets to write this editorial. It’s all pretty straightforward and there’s even a World Rock Paper Scissors Championship. 

I recently realized what those three objects mean to me: rock stands for manual labor – like digging up the garden and hauling stuff (rocks) around; scissors stands for handicrafts – you know, cutting and pasting colored strips of paper, making macaroni portraits, playing with watercolors, aka spending time with my son; and paper – well that’s this right here – a blank sheet of paper that you sit down with, every time you begin a new article.

Top RPS tip (from a middling player): most people who aren’t that invested in playing rock, paper, scissors – and only play it occasionally – will open with rock on the first move about 40% of the time. Probably because it (the fist) feels powerful and in control. So, smart money is on opening with paper on such occasions. That gives you a 7% advantage over a flat statistical distribution. Which, in a game of chance, is huge (in a decent roulette game, for reference, the house advantage stands at 2.7%). Just beware that Radu Cotarcea is actually a semi-pro RPS athlete, and he knows all this – so he’ll usually open with scissors. Mind games!

My problem is that my peripheral knowledge of RPS doesn’t translate well into real life. Or, to put it another way, paper scares me. Literally. I would rather facepaint or go dig in the garden – which I did for a bit while writing this – than sit down with a blank piece of paper. Or, if I must sit at my computer, I’ll answer emails, do reviews, upload files, or look at cat posters – rather than open a new file and start writing that damn article – which is, you know, kind of the core of my job. 

Still, since I realized that’s an issue, I’m at least monitoring the situation more closely. And, while putting this issue together, I did try to imagine which of our contributors writes from a similar fear-of-paper place. I can’t say my paper-fear radar is 100% accurate, but I think I did uncover some indicators. 

People who fear the blank paper – it’s an actual emotion you must sit with and it makes you uncomfortable – will use different tricks to make themselves more comfortable, or put themselves at ease. You know, whenever they actually get around to sitting down to get stuff done. Usually just as their deadline is about to expire. 

They’ll quote authoritative sources (not bad). They will try to imagine and connect with their audience (quite good). Or start with a joke or a little personal story (this, this right here). They might sit down and build the structure of what they’re trying to write (an excellent starting point). Or they’ll just fill the page with anything that comes to mind – just to unblank it (not great). Still, all these responses do get the ball rolling, and (see brackets above) I think most of them are decent writing strategies in general. 

I’m not saying my fear of paper was cured after keeping all this in mind for one magazine issue. But: I am, at least, sure there are a lot of us paper-fearing folks writing and reading the CEE Legal Matters magazine. And let me tell all of you: our articles aren’t worse off because of it. Most of them are quite decent, with a few ones being top-notch and, occasionally, excellent. Because we try harder. So, keep doing what you’re doing and use any of the techniques above (if you use other ones, I want to know about them) but – for the love of God! – do it sooner. 

Stop playing scissors and rock up until the point your deadline is about to expire. Sit down with your blank piece of paper – right now – and kick its ass!  

This Article was originally published in Issue 9.10 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here

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