How Do I Write?

This question comes up more frequently than I would expect. I’ve been writing here since 2006 and this blog is a good map of my professional journey over that time. Most often, when people ask me the titular question, they are wondering how I can keep this up for so long. Less frequently, the question is about my process – how I go from a concept to a fully-formed post. I was asked this again recently. I’m not sure my response was satisfactory, but it was accurate.

If you stop by my office, there is one thing you won’t find – lots of notes with partial concepts or a bunch of WordPress drafts waiting for me to finish them. That is simply not how I do things. The header image for this post is what my WordPress editor looks like if I sit down and “try” to write. In the past, I have felt self-imposed pressure to write things on something akin to a schedule. The end result is almost always something with which I have been dissatisfied. If I scroll back through my post history, I can point them out to you. If I had a bit more ego about it, I would take them down, but I believe in transparency so those posts where I struck out looking will live alongside the ones where I got on base.

So how do I actually do this now? I sit down and write when I feel like I have something to write about. The time between those instances can be measured in hours or in months. Generally, when I sit down to write, a post mostly comes out fully formed and ready to go. I have come to realize that is because I walk around subconsciously background-processing an idea for a while. When it’s ready, it pushes forward and I have to get it out of my head. That background processing usually involves synthesizing other information to support the concept. That can take a while but, as the concept gets closer, I can often seem to others to be distracted. In truth, I am distracted, but I may not always be able to articulate why until after I write the post.

Right now, I’m background-processing a post on ETL. The “thing I want to say” is eluding me in a presentable form. At some point, it will be ready to write, or it will fade away. There won’t be any false starts between now and then, however. I’ve come to value quality over quantity. I don’t subscribe to any of the modern thought on “content creation.” “Content” for me is synonymous with “filler” and I’m not interested in writing filler. So I just don’t.

That’s it. That’s the “process.” When an concept goes from half-baked to full-baked and forces itself out of my head, I sit down and write. Hitting the “publish” button is like a release and my head feels tidier afterward. That’s how I’ve continued to do this over the years – when I feel like I have something to write, I write. Otherwise, I don’t. That’s probably not satisfying. It’s certainly not a recipe for page views, but it’s what works for me.

Thanks for reading.