I've never considered myself much of a writer. During college, if we had a semester to write a 15 page paper I'd start it 6 hours before it was due and in high school I often didn't write the paper at all. They probably shouldn't have let me graduate. So, it's odd that I find myself here, writing this article on the act of writing. It took me a while to realize it but I now find this process invaluable, perhaps even enjoyable. Here's why.
Writing is Creating
In a recent episode of the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Conan interviews Lin-Manuel Miranda. The whole episode is top notch but something that really stuck with me was their conversation on creating (at around 44:45 ). Conan describes being "obsessed with having a body of work" and Lin-Manuel talks about how he's happiest when he's "just finished writing things."
I know the feeling they describe. Writing new code for a project I care about, finally landing a kickflip, building a table. The feelings I get from these accomplishments are all varying flavors of the same satisfying dish. They're all creating.
Writing is Learning
I've been in the software industry for over a decade. If you're a new comer to this field you could be forgiven if you think this makes me some kind of expert. I'm good at my craft but there are so many gaps in my knowledge. Gaps that most of the time I can work around. But, what if they weren't there at all? How much better could I be?
Writing requires you to comprehend things in a way that I don't believe a person can otherwise. When writing about X you're forced to explore all the nooks and crannies and when you do that you learn where your blind spots lie pretty quick-like. If you hope to do your topic any justice you're going to have to grok those blind spots, not only in a way that you understand, but in a way that makes sense to your reader.
I love learning new things deeply and writing is fine a way as any to facilitate it.
Writing is Sharing
Sharing is important... existentially important! Consider what goes into something as "simple" as a pencil. Its existence is just not possible without sharing knowledge.
Sure, writing doesn't require sharing, you could keep a personal journal and never let slip a word of it and that's valuable in its own right. However, I like sharing the things I learn and this blog is mostly about that, learning.
I don't know if anyone will find what I write here valuable (or if anyone will find it at all), but that someone might makes it all worth it.
Writing is Teaching
Given learning and sharing, writing becomes teaching. When you write on a topic and put it into the world you are sharing your experience. If you share your experience clearly enough others may learn something from it.
Writing is Communicating
This should be obvious. What may be less obvious is how important communication is to all that we do. The better your communication skills the more likely you are to get that raise, sell that product or go on that first date. Do you think hostage negotiators with bad communication skills have much job security? I doubt it. It's the same for most jobs... Software engineering, teaching, accounting, air traffic controlling, fire fighting etc.
Every time you write, whether it's a YouTube comment, a tweet, a blog post or a book, you're exercising your ability to communicate, and just like your body, the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes.
I used to think I didn't have anything unique to say. Everything I could write on whatever topic had already been covered, right? Probably not. At least not in my own unique way. Even if it has, so what? Considering what writing is to me, I couldn't possibly pass it up and if what I'm saying is old hat, who cares.
If you share the same fears, I'd encourage you to just do it. What others think, be damned. What others have already said, be damned. Give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen?
A Few Of My Favorites
Mr. Money Mustache
This is a blog on simple living, self reliance and sustainability couched in FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) parlance. I find the FIRE movement insufferable at times but I love this blog and I've probably read everything Peter Adeney has written there. One of the earliest posts I remember enjoying is this one on hedonic adaptation.
Maria Popova uses her power to share and distill the philosophies, beliefs and wisdom of the world's greatest thinkers, poets, artists and more. A good and quick read is this piece on Betrand Russell titled "How To Grow Old." Also check out this interview with her on the Tim Ferriss show. It's good. At the very least go sign up for her newsletter right meow.
Brett Victor creates incredible essays, projects, talks and more on crazy interesting stuff from what technologists can do about climate change and energy conservation to this still awesome 7 year old talk on inventing "tools that enable people to understand and create." Also, the website itself is pretty amazing.
Wait But Why
The blog of Tim Urban. If you somehow haven't heard of Wait But Why, you need to educate yourself, it is so good. Mega deep dives and thoughtful essays on a wide variety of really interesting topics. Tim's article titled The Tail End fundamentally changed the way I see the world. I can't say that about many things.
James Clear basically writes self help from a realistic and scientific perspective. No woo woo and a lot of careful thought on topics like behavioral psychology, self improvement and mental toughness. In particular I enjoyed this article on mental models.