How do you write?

As I have begun making more posts, I start to get a better idea for what it takes to maintain a blog. In my spare time, I have browsed through other blogs, learning, trying to see how other people have approached different problems, and what I could be doing differently, perhaps improving on. Elsewhere, I have been researching ideas on how to make a better website (or what I think would be a better website).
However, for this post, I want to focus on what I write. Like always, content is king. The most difficult thing about writing is creating content that I think is worthy of posting online. Ultimately, plugins and similar tools are just that, tools to help get the job done. They can help your website, make life a lot easier for certain tasks, but in the end, you must be the one to write. The person is always the bottleneck and they must generate the end content that they are proud of.

 

Before I begin, I must describe my goals. My goals are not to drive traffic to this website or anything along the lines of that. My goal is to get my thoughts out and to write something that I can later look back and say, with some degree of satisfaction, that this is something that I felt was a worthy topic to discuss. Ideally it is a topic that in my musings, I have offered an idea that is either out of mainstream or perhaps explained something in a manner that people will find interesting or easy to understand.

 

Anyways, several things have struck me about what I have learned so far:

  1. Your passion for writing will come and go in short bursts. It can be very ephemeral.
  2. Time is a huge bottleneck for all bloggers and writers.
  3. You will not think in a linear fashion.
  4. Explaining certain concepts is difficult.
  5. Sometimes you will look back and wonder why you wrote what you did.

 

Let’s go through these in greater detail.

Your passion for writing will come and go in short bursts.

Passion for writing is ephemeral. There will be days that you feel like writing and other days when you will skip writing right away.

 

You will notice that on my website, I have periods where there are many posts per day and then periods where there are none. This website is still young, but going forward, I expect this to be the status quo. Time (see the next category) is a problem, but it is also a passion for writing, which seems to come and go, even for a topic that you like. Sometimes when writing, the topic becomes suddenly less interesting the moment you start writing about it, while in other situations, the topic remains interesting or even better, when you start writing, you feel compelled to finish.

 

My advice has been to go with your desire. Write when you feel like it and do not force yourself to write if you do not. I find that when I do not wish to write and I force myself, the quality of content can often decline. By contrast, I like what I write more frequently when I am eager to write about something. Let your desire or dislike of writing guide you. The words flow naturally when you do feel eager to write, and there seems to be a certain “positive feedback loop” that occurs leading to great quality content.

 

I suppose one point is that there are some things that you must write about in life, due to career or academic requirements.

 

Time is a huge bottleneck for all bloggers and writers.

Especially for those who do not write as their main job (and even those who do I have been told suffer from this), having the time to write is hard.

 

The problem is not just writing. One must think about what to write, perhaps research the topic, write, then revise before publishing. Afterwards, there may be more revisions and in some cases, updated posts or corrections. This is very time consuming, especially for those working full time. It means devoting a significant percentage of one’s spare time to writing. That may mean giving up other commitments in life outside of writing.

 

People that blog choose to do so because this is what they wanted to do. They wanted to get their thoughts onto some sort of medium to share with the world.

 

You will not think in a linear fashion.

Whenever you think, you do not think a linear way from steps 1 to the end in a logical chronological order. Our brains simply do not think in that manner. Thoughts are firing in your mind, coming and going quite spontaneously. You may also find yourself getting the best ideas when you least expect it.

 

I have been an advocate that if you have a great idea, write it down immediately or you risk losing it. The reason is because, as many of us have discovered to our chagrin, we do not keep very many things in our short-term memory.

 

When you start writing a post, the different ideas that form that post are not linear either. That is also true in the sections of a book, a thesis, or even in a short article. If I have ideas, I generally allow myself to go out of order. Modern Word Processors are far better about this than an older-fashioned typewriter is about getting your thoughts down quickly and accurately.

 

The important thing is that you get your best ideas out. Trying to do so is difficult. Apart from the problem of thoughts coming and going quickly, you do need to get your thoughts out in such a manner that is enjoyable to read by others. Sadly, presentation is as important as content in our world. I wish that were not so, but it is a reality of the world that we live in.

 

Explaining certain concepts is difficult.

Have you ever found yourself thinking about something and it seemed so flawless, so cool when you thought about it, but then when you tried to get the words recorded or to explain verbally to someone else, it became extremely difficult to shape those thoughts?

 

It happens a lot more often than you think. In many ways, it is a good thing because it forces you to go back and think. Maybe that idea was not such a good one after all, if I struggle to explain it? Perhaps I do not have the level of knowledge that I thought that I did if I am struggling to explain something?

 

The best way to overcome this is to get a separate sheet and to brainstorm everything out. This paper will not look nice. That is not its purpose. It is to try to get you to better understand what you are talking about so that you can present your ideas to the world in a manner that looks great. From the paper, you can construct your post. You may find yourself wondering about the idea, making major revisions, or other changes in the post throughout the writing process. In many ways, the writing acts like a second brainstorming session.

 

Sometimes you will look back and wonder why you wrote what you did.

Looking back, I think there have been more than a few cases when I looked back and wondered, what on earth was I possibly thinking? A few years ago, I spoke to an expert in my field of study and he says for his professional publications, he always takes a week or two before writing to leave it, forget about it, and look back closely at what he wrote. In quite a few cases, he realized something fascinating, it was that he thought he was insane for writing some of the things he wrote. Since then, I have met several people who are experts in their field who have shared such an opinion.

 

What is formally published undergoes many, many revisions. In many cases, what the author originally said gets lost during the revisions. Other times, the writer themselves changes their opinion when they have so many revisions of their work.

 

I suspect that someday, I will look back at some of my posts here and wonder what I was writing or how my thought process could possibly have been the way that it was.

 

Conclusions

Writing is hard to do. It is much harder than it looks. The level of difficulty that it takes is seldom appreciated by those who do not write. Writing well is even more difficult and is a constant learning experience. I cannot claim to be a good writer. Certainly, it is something that I aspire to be, but like all things in life, it is a learning process. Good writers will make every effort to mitigate the bottlenecks and challenges of writing well. They will not succeed entirely. Nobody is perfect in this regard.

 

Like other topics, I have barely scratched the surface on the difficulties of writing and writing well. I cannot claim to be an expert at writing, but I have enough experience to begin to understand the difficulties that people face.

 

I think that the conclusion is that writing is very much a labour of love for most writers, a place to collect their thoughts, to share their ideas, and perhaps to aspire to be better because they wrote.

 

In the comments below, I’d love to hear about how you write, what you think are the biggest bottlenecks, and what you do to overcome these bottlenecks?

2 Comments

  1. Benjamin David Steele

    My own blogging is a rather simple matter. I feel a compulsion to write. I used to write in journals when I was younger. Now I mostly write in my blog, although I still keep a journal.

    I have thoughts, ideas, and observations that tumble around in my head and they drive me crazy until I put them down in words. But I try make what I write reasonably interesting to others as well.

    My only limitation to writing is time. I’d like to spend more time not just writing but writing well. It takes a lot of effort to write well. Sadly, I have to work a job to pay the bills and so time is a severely limited commodity.

    Time is a major problem for me. I’m not an efficient thinker and so I’m not an efficient writer. My mind goes around in circles, slowly accumulating bits of this and that until something takes form. It can be a frustrating process, as order slowly emerges out of chaos. I sometimes plain fail or else give up. I have hundreds of unfinished drafts.

    Reply
    1. Chris Liu (Post author)

      I actually find myself writing a lot these days on paper as well.

      That may seem rather odd, but it does seem to improve long-term memory retention. Also, I find if you write on paper a lot, it is worth getting good quality notebooks with heavier paper (paper weight defined by grams per square meter). That and the notebook should be able to stand up to abuse.

      Yeah time is a limitation for everyone I’m afraid. There isn’t any easy way I am afraid – there is a trade-off between quantity and quality, although I find you do get better with time. If you go in circles, keep a lot of your work in progress (WIP) in draft. Personally I wish there were more hours in the day.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *