One of my new year’s resolutions is to write more. As soon as I voiced my goal, it seemed like everyone had, at one point or another, done the same thing. They also shared many pro-tips with me, which I share here.
Writing more, for me, is an all encompassing endeavor. It means writing in all forms:
- writing for a monthly newsletter at work
- writing release notes for a software project
- writing documentation for a software project
- writing a daily (personal) journal
For this goal, almost every form of writing counts. The only exception in my mind is email. Emails are for communicating, an instantaneous thing where the words are not typically meant to last.
There are a bunch of writing groups out there and they are particularly active around the start of the new year. Finding a group geared towards your writing style (academic / technical vs. creative writing) is key. If a suitable group can’t be found, at least find a friend. Everything is better with a buddy!
Writing takes time and effort. It involves mental focus where organize your thoughts and express them clearly. Creating a schedule with dedicated writing time is essential. A typical suggestion is to write first thing in the morning. Especially if you are (or can make yourself be) an early riser, having a morning quiet time can be powerful.
I find that writing in my personal journal first thing in the morning (acutally second thing, I work out at 5:30 am) is a way to start my day on the right foot. Breaking the habit of checking email and getting sucked in to the internet can be hard at first. But, I quickly found that I would look forward to my writing time and be loath to have it end.
A colleague suggested that I make the same space in my work life. Dedicate some time each morning at work (before checking email) to write. While I think this is a great idea, I’m not sure what exactly I would write about since writing for my blog would not be appropriate.
A corollary to creating time to write is creating space. This can be physical or digital. Set yourself up with a nice notebook, a solid desk, and/or an elegant writing app. Find a writing form that enjoyable and comfortable.
The same colleague made clear that writing time should be clearly delineated from editing time. Each is an entirely separate process, employing different regions of the brain. Thus, it is important to block out a separate time to edit your words.
I haven’t quite found the way to achieve this yet. Currently, I alternate days in which I write with days in which I edit.
Finally, it is important to track how much you write. This can be use to see your progress over time and as a motivator to keep you on track. I would imagine that many writing groups would use such a writing log as an accountability step.
The exact word-count goal doesn’t matter, as long as you are making progress. I would imagine many writing applications have word counts built in, I am sure there is a way to log this with Emacs and Org mode.
Through this effort I hope to achieve a few things:
- Fill my blog with content. I genuinely enjoy sharing knowledge with others and teaching people how to do the things I have learned. A blog is a fantastic vehicle to that end.
- Fill in gaps at work. I work on software development and, as is typical, documentation is left for later. I do enjoy creating documentation and I would like to make this effort in earnest. Plus, simplifying the documentation process has been on my to-do list for a long time.
- Gain more recognition at work. As I tell others, no one knows that you’ve done anything unless you tell them about it (and even then they may not hear you). I would like to practice the art of sharing the accomplishments of myself and my team.
- Finally, there is a long list of things I would like to achieve this year. Keeping a daily, personal journal has been something I’ve wanted to do, but I’ve never actually done. I hope that by having a clear focus for each week I can get more done, both in writing and in life.