« Developing a Writing Plan

June 12, 2019 • ☕️ 3 min read

You just have to start. As in anything, your idea doesn’t mean anything until you start working with it. You can roll it around in your head all you want, thinking about all of the lovely ideas you have, but it doesn’t mean anything will its bouncing around up there. While you hold it in your head you could forget any minor epiphanies you have, you can’t share it with others to focus the argument or discover other useful directions it could take. You won’t have learned anything. A fleeting thought is as useful as that time you thought about that great idea that could fix the world then instead hid in your house, looking at Reddit. You didn’t help anyone, not even yourself, by just thinking about it. 

Let’s take writing as an example. Decide what your purpose for writing is. I’ve recently decided that I would like to write to be more timeless and widely applicable. Its not an extraordinarily fresh idea, nor is its essence something I haven’t attempted. That doesn’t matter though, I have a theme that I’m aiming at for now. That theme will most likely change over time. This way, though, while I’m putting down notes about what next to write about, I can use this as a guideline for what to focus on. What to focus on within each article or whether that article belongs at all

The first theme that you focus on will not be your last. Using myself as an example again, I started writing years ago. First, it was about my travels as a kid in school, mostly used while I was travelling abroad to communicate back to family and friends what I’d been up to. That died after a while (or after I inevitably had less interesting life stories to write about). I eventually returned to talk about the minute details in code that I had figured out, or understood about something fairly specific. A lot of the posts were in code. As I grew up as a Software Engineer I recognized less and less when a particular obstacle was worth penning a blog post. The writing days died again. Finally, in a most recent attempt, I was writing about the slightly more abstract concepts and critiquing them using pseudo-code examples. Again the writing died after a short period. 

You could argue the first two themes were eventually going to die, by my own hand if not by time’s. The last theme, where I considered writing about abstract concepts using some more concrete examples, had a little more meat to it. That’s all well and good, but none of the themes are why the writing died. They died because I didn’t make it a priority. 

Ultimately to be successful at something it has to become part of your part of your week, part of your day, maybe even part of every hour. For my endeavor, I’ve decided to carve out exactly 30 minutes into my every-day schedule. That might mean puking words out into a notebook to grow an idea, talking through it with a friend and writing notes down or editing. This time is devoted to the actual act of writing. Get those initial, rough ideas down is important. Speaking realistically, though, you won’t (and shouldn’t) use all that much of the words from these vomit-sessions. These bits of time are for two things: creating a habit of expressing yourself and your thoughts in words, and for finding general ideas that you feel you can talk out-loud about. 

Forming that habit will be enough to evolve your writing, your thinking, your style. The habit of writing every day won’t, in and of itself, produce a publishable blog — if that’s what you’re into. Its a huge start, though. 

When you’re writing and writing to write you eventually realize a few things. A lot of your initial ideas suck. A lot of the ideas that don’t suck aren’t distilled to what you really want to talk about. It doesn’t flow well into an understanding of the idea you’re trying to get across to your audience. When you write every day and make a similar habit to read back over things, pick the good one, do some editing, trimming, external research, peer review (if possible), you might actually have something. 

Its hard. Accomplishing anything like this is hard. But if it were easy you wouldn’t learn anything, nor would your readers.