Why I blog?

I published my first blog post on April 16, in the year of our Lord 2012. Since then, eight years and 170 posts later, I wonder how I can use my writing more purposefully. How does one commit to writing in a way that fosters the best outcome?

Purpose helps others understand our actions. Sharing the reason we’re doing things with those who care, helps them motivate us when we’re stuck. Purpose is a driving force that is able to help you stay consistent over decades.

What purpose should you have for writing that transcends your current context?

My motivation is a moving target: To become better at writing, because writing is a superpower. It is true, “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Being great with words could be the difference between life and death. Being skill full in the art of writing has the potential to unlock many opportunities.

For the sake of writing, writing could undoubtedly be reason enough, but I also have a second reason. That is, to grow my community of influence, the network—of shared opportunities.

I hope to use this blog to demonstrate my skills and these are the topics that I hope to cover as I aim to improve my ability to put what I learn into words:

  1. Software Engineering industry and practice.
  2. Leadership
  3. eCommerce
  4. Personal development

With a greater sense of purpose, I’d like to intensify my efforts and would like you to join me, either by creating your own blog or following along and reading mine.

Highlights from Everybody Writes

Beth Dunn went from being an unemployable writer to a writing career that speaks for itself. In her talk, “How to Be a Writing god“, she hammered down the idea; disciplined writing is the only way to improved writing. Her story, alongside the Author, Ann Handley’s simple advice, makes it clear; every professional should take writing seriously.

Most people dislike writing. Maybe it’s all that forced writing we had to do in school? It was interesting to see the book encouraging us to let go of any writing advice you received at school.

“The difference between Good writing and bad writing is trying, trying and trying again”

In this book, you will discover many valuable ideas, though one stands out for me, the writing process; a detailed set of steps that shows you the way a finished piece when all you have is an idea.

Writing process

The following steps helped me. I’ll share a quick summary with you. Follow it in order and see the results for yourself.

  1. Have a clear goal. Write this goal down as the first thing on your draft and keep it at the top. Refer back to it often as you work on the piece.
  2. Restate your goal within the context of your reader. This is the more difficult part and I’m struggling to do this, but I think with practice it may become easier.
  3. Do research. Seek out data or others who have written about the topic or anything related to your goal. This helps give your post more credibility and builds trust.
  4. Organise your findings and thoughts. I normally just create one-sentence paragraphs in a draft. Write down everything that comes up related to your topic.
  5. Remember to write to one person. People hardly ever read in groups and if they do it will be only one person reading at a time so think about writing as a conversation.
  6. Create the Ugly first draft. Write like no-one cares. Just write. Don’t even care for structure. Just take the thoughts you have and expand on them as much as you want to.
  7. Walk away, do something else, give yourself space away from the content. Create another draft for another post.
  8. Rewrite the draft. I must share with you that I don’t really do this. I write on a computer and simply manipulate the draft document.
  9. Give it a great title. One that captures the essence. One that tells the prospective reader exactly what to expect. Don’t mislead your reader, trust is more valuable than views. Most times my writing starts because of a title that frames the idea.
  10. Have someone edit it. This is mainly for commercial content. I use Grammarly to check that all is in order.
  11. Add a call to action. What do you want the reader to do next?
  12. Have a final look at it and check that it reads clearly and is easy on the eye.
  13. Publish! Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of good enough. This is just one step in your journey, so keep publishing.

The writing process helps you on a very practical level, but when you’ve got this process down there are many other important tips for writers.

To wrap up, I’ll share some final thoughts, but for the full experience, you’ll have to read the book.

3 Critical approaches to writing

1. Writing is a service to your users. A practical example of serving would be to place the most important parts first, providing the most value upfront. This is out of respect for the reader’s time making it easy for them to understand what you want to highlight. The same applies to sentences. First, give the content and then back it up with context. Instead of “According to John, mocking others is foolishness” write ” mocking others foolishness, according to John”. Respect the reader, keep writing to the point and remove cruft that doesn’t add value.

2. Discipline – All great writers practice their own version of a writing discipline. The main take away here is to practice daily, if that’s not possible set time a side on a weekly basis.

3. Show don’t tell – Most people do not appreciate being told what to do, so the better approach would be to make suggestions and provide great real life examples. Give them the example and let them decide what to do with it.

Conclusion

I hope some of the lessons I’ve learnt are applicable to your situation and I hope it inspires you read Everybody Writes for yourself. You can find the book here: Take A lot | Amazon

The process before the content

From my perspective, I still have a long way to go. I do however think that sharing what I know today is valuable, not for the sake of what I share, but for the process of refining the idea. I place the process before the content, with the hope that a refined process will lead to fine content.

Writing is thinking is a good metaphor for how I use this blog. I blog and share my posts public-ally so that I can exercise structured thinking. Looking for ways to better express my thoughts and find the best words to illustrate my ideas.

Both the content and the process really do matter, but as I shape my writing process I make sure that I continually fill my mind with things to write about. I believe that applying the correct writing style to great content will be a valuable skill in any context.

I have already started noticing a change in the way I write at work. Doing blog posts forces me to think through what I’m writing. Knowing that it will be shared publicly puts enough pressure on me to ensure it is at least decent.

Blogging is only for the successful, is how I used to think. Now I know that blogging leads to success. Being ables to communicate clearly is a skill worth practicing.

5 things to keep in your Journal

Today, while reading my Journal, I had a weird feeling. The feeling that my Journal was actually becoming valuable to me. Like I’d be willing to put up a reward if I’ve lost it.

Keeping a Journal has been so beneficial, I believe it is slowly changing my life, for the better. I’ve written about this already, but to add to it, I wanted to share with you the 5 categories I jot down in my journal as they come up. Anything else besides these, I generally try to keep out of my Journal. The reason for ignoring everything else is this, these 5 things give me the positive reinforcement I need when I read my Journal entries.

1. Ideas

Ideas that are positive, Ideas that build you up. Ideas for changing the way you think. Ideas that may help you improve and Ideas for a better future.

2. Keeping track of personal development

I still need to figure this one out, but a simple question here is how am I doing on the personal development front. I get to this category when I’ve slipped up. When I have not been disciplined with working towards my goals. It’s just a place of honesty where I can write about why I failed and then try to find some motivation for going further.

3. Important Events

Any important Event. I just write them down, good and bad. This to bring some reality to the lofty dreams, goals and Ideas I write down besides them. 

4. To put into writing what one cannot easily say in public

This is for those times when you have things on your heart that are hard to explain or say. They may cause harm in their raw form, they are hard because saying things mean dealing with them as well. Somehow dealing with things in writing is much easier for me than saying the challenging matter out loud. This kind of Journaling I use to untie the knot of the emotions and separate out truths and feelings.

5. To dump good thoughts

Thoughts and Ideas are very similar, but to me, they are things that linger. Things that build up. They may be inspired by ideas, events even other thoughts. These, I believe, form a core part of our character. I start my day with a clear mind, and as I go through the day, it gets clouded with many thoughts. I would like to hold on to good thoughts and minimize bad and sometimes destructive thoughts.

It’s your journal

This is not a list ascribing to you what you should keep in journal, but it is a nudge to help you think about a more structured approach to the things one should have in your journal. Being intentional brings you, the writer and hopefully the reader, a lot more value in the end.

How to blog regularly

Blogging is a learning process. You learn to organize thoughts. You learn to overcome the fear of publishing those thoughts. This helps you to become better at communication, just like Journalling.

I used to do a terrible job of regularly updating this site until I discovered scheduling. Scheduling is an amazing strategy, it is also my secret weapon against the fear of publishing.

I often get so nervous before I publish that I have often stopped short of hitting publish. What will people think, right? Well, with scheduling, I push that fear out and away, forward, somewhere in the future. There it looks so harmless. Then, one day, I see the post popping up on my feeds, by which time it is too late to cancel, so I just go with it.

I love this feature, as I’m not always inspired, but sometimes I get 4 to 5 ideas in one go. Then I can either draft them or start writing them to schedule them.

1 Post a week. That’s all only release one, even if you have ten. Until you master regular writing discipline. 1 per week will help you maintain a good cadence and also improve your writing skills.