writing > Meta/Writing > Hello, Writing
Last Updated: August 2014
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Hello, Writing

This post is weird because it’s a retroactively written intro to my site after I’ve already drafted and completed a number of essays. But I feel better about writing this intro post this time than every other time I’ve intro’d my blog because I’ve finally developed into a somewhat consistent writer.

In addition to welcoming you to the pensive corner of my mind – Welcome! – I also hope to provide some encouragement and tips for others working on improving their writing consistency. I often feel the best tips come not from an expert, but from someone who’s barely further down the road than you are. I hope I can be such a person for you.

We sucked…and continue to do so

Many people in my life, at one or more points in their lives, have tried to maintain a blog. Few have gotten past writing more than a few half-hearted posts made in hours of utter boredom or procrastination. You may know some such. You may be one. I was one for sure. I have started at least two game design blogs, three project blogs, a social-content blog, and two personal blogs. And several diaries and journals. And I can safely say they are all dead, and not one has crossed ten entries.

And I’m here to say that’s not just ok, it’s the only way to start. If you are anything like I once was, I want to let you know I still have many of the problems you may be facing now.

I have five or six barely-started drafts lying around.
I have lost interest in half of them.
Even on my favourite topics, posts remain unpublished because I’m never satisfied.
I have little expertise in what I’m writing about.
My topics are all over the place.
When I’m done, I am embarrassed to promote my posts.
I still barely finalize a post once every 2-3 months.
I write only when I procrastinate, and then I procrastinate on the writing too.
Above all, my writing still sucks.

The important thing is that none of those are reasons to stop. When someone tells you “you should write a blog” or you think that, again, go ahead, do it.

Be deliberate

I am still a beginner at writing. I aim to get better. With each piece, I aim to improve a facet of my writing. Here is a list of things I have worked/am working on:

  • Be thoughtful – rants feel good to write, but terrible to read
  • Communicate a software development challenge – learn to communicate a professional experience
  • Reduce usage of (parentheses) – they break the strain of thought of the reader to accommodate a tangent of the writer
  • Say more with less – shorter is always sweeter
  • Use shorter sentences – a combination of the above two

It is good to aspire to improve yourself. Have a list like this written down somewhere, with the ‘action,’ and the ‘why’. Don’t hold yourself to be perfect at each facet for every post. Just decide whether you’ve done at least one thing better, and everything else at least as well as last time.

You have the time

“I don’t have the time to write” is a common cop-out, right up there with “but noone will read it” and “I suck at writing”. If you are not interested in communicating your thoughts to the world that’s fine.

But regarding time – don’t try to schedule hours for writing. You’ll almost never be able to get the words flowing in the hours you block off. Take notes when the right thoughts come to you. Turn them into prose when you’re in circumstances that make it the best thing you can do. Feeling unproductive trying to get work done? Find nothing interesting on the internet? Or don’t have internet? On an extremely long plane/train/bus ride? These are my favourite times to turn my thoughts and notes into essay work.

It’s not work

…Unless it is. If you’re writing for a school assignment, I have no good advice for you, I never did well in academic writing. If you are planning to make a living from writing prose, this is out of my scope as well.

The rest of you, remember, this isn’t work. Don’t set deadlines for yourself. When you miss a deadline, which you will, you are further incentivized to abandon. Now “Oh, I missed a deadline? I decided to give up on the blog, that’s why” becomes a valid argument. Don’t give yourself that way out.

Get distraction-free

Maintaining a blog can involve a lot more than writing. Try to cut out the fat. When I tried to blog on tumblr, I found myself hunting out pictures, editing CSS, modifying themes, ALL THE TIME that I was on the blog. On Wordpress, it was the same stuff, plus configuring plugins, widgets, comment systems, what not. When I tried to roll my own using Rails, well, let’s not kid anyone, I didn’t write a single post, but I made a mediocre blog viewing platform from scratch. All this is toxic for getting any actual writing done.

A big milestone in my writing came in the form of Medium.com, and I could tell as soon as I tried it. Sadly, many of the good things about Medium I raved about in that link no longer hold. However, it still remains one of the best distraction-free writing platforms. If distractions are your issue, try Medium or something similar.

Once you hit a certain level of consistency, you may want something with more customizability, and you’ll know when you get there.

For now, just write.

I am not really an authority on any of the things I talk about. I hope to be, someday. When that day comes, I want to be good at writing about it too.