Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Developers Should Write

Every developer that takes to blogging eventually has something to say on this topic. Come to think of it, the ground we tend to cover isn't that original even if some of the insights and details are from time to time. Regardless, I figured it was my turn to offer what I hope will be some nugget of inspiration to someone. Chances are it will turn out to just be an anecdote about myself allowing others to see some of my insecurities, but here it goes anyway.

The reason you always hear as to why developers should start writing is that it will improve communication skills. I always knew this was true, but I didn't understand how it happened. After writing this blog on and off for a year, I finally figured out what is probably the biggest problem in the way I communicate. And that is the most important step in improving just about any skill; identify an aspect small enough and well defined enough that you can do something about. If you can't plan out a path to get better, your goal probably isn't well enough defined. Keep refining until you can come up with a solution.

And now it's anecdote time. I was always upset that I couldn't convince others of the merits of my designs as often as I liked. Sure, my concepts are not always the best and even if they are they are, they are still not chosen from time to time. But I still felt that I could do better. That is the main reason why I started writing this blog. I just wanted to practice being convincing.

That's too big. I just didn't realize it. I kept writing trying to determine if I was making any head way. I didn't feel that I was, but you can be the judge. There are just too many ways to be convincing. Sincerity, passion and reasoning can all affect how convincing you are. Being convincing is just too broad a concept to tackle.

I kept writing. It took me a year, but I just noticed a couple things. First, I'm slow at self improvement. That's a topic for another post. More germane to this piece is that I realized that when I am writing or speaking about topics that I am excited or passionate about, I tend to jump around and try to cover twenty points all at the same time. Yes, they are all important ideas that have baring on the on the discussion. But unless my audience was sitting over my shoulder for weeks on end sharing all of my experiences, they were likely getting left behind or just outright confused.

Now that I have a well defined deficiency I can do something about it. (I have many deficiencies I'm sure, I just haven't tried to define many of them.) Armed with this little piece of knowledge I have thought of several ways to improve my writing. I will try to focus more on the point that I am making. I can bite off smaller topics to talk about. I don't need to cram all twenty ideas into a single post or conversation. If I absolutely need to write that much, I need to be more aware of the organization of my thoughts. These are just some of the several guidelines for writing you learn throughout school. My problem was that without a significant amount of my own writing to study, I didn't know which out of all those best practices I was ignoring the most.

So the story is just the long way of illustrating my initial advice. If you are trying to improve your communication skills, you need to identify an issue and come up with a solution. Coming up with solutions to well defined problems is the easy part. If you are having a hard time with the solution, you probably haven't defined the problem well enough. It turns out this is the hard part. You just need to keep writing and narrow down your scope until you can easily think of solutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment