The rules are changing. Especially for knowledge workers like software developers. It’s impacting how we should craft our careers. The opportunities and the tools we have are different to the years before. Writing platforms are one of these big shifts. We have the ability to share our ideas with large audiences. It’s simpler than ever. Mainstream media influence is yielding to the power of individual influencers. Only a handful of developers will identify this opportunity. Even less act on it.
If you insist on playing todays games by yesterdays rules, you’re stuck – Seth Godin, Tribes.
If there’s some advice that I could go back in time and give myself it would be this: Share your story.
Your story has more power than you can ever imagine. What you have done, what you have seen and what you have learned is invaluable. It would be a crime to withhold such invaluable information. Whether you write about code or your experiences you have big potential to impact others.
You probably take for granted the fact that you have a great deal of specialised thinking that others will find helpful, possibly even fascinating – Michael Hyatt, Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World
Some of your greatest assets are your stories and your ideas. But, you need some way to encapsulate them. This leaves you with 2 options: Write them down or talk about them. In this instance, we’re going to address the former: Writing.
And why you should write.
1. For the satisfaction of giving back
Let’s start with a simple one: Giving back feels good. When you write (and publish) you’re passing on your ideas to others. You’re helping someone else out. You could write about technical content or detail lessons you’ve learned. It doesn’t matter, sharing feels good.
Helping others can be a massive motivational boost that can drive our careers. To use a crude metaphor: It helps us squeeze more juice from our work. You’re no longer turning up for a pay cheque. You’re now writing for others: to help them out. That gives your career that little bit more purpose. It can help you get up on those days where it feels a bit harder than usual.
Most experts find no matter how much personal development you achieve, there will be a point where you can no longer progress. The only way to continue to grow is by helping others – Russell Brunson, Expert Secrets
2. Develop clarity of thought
Writing is hard. No doubt. One of the greatest difficulties that I’ve found is sticking to a “main thesis” when writing. The mind wants to wander. You want to make a thousand points when you should be only making one. One. solid. point. I find this ability to bring clarity to my thoughts invaluable. This mental discipline soon transcends beyond writing.
As developers, we spend a large amount of our time persuading others. We discuss our ideas on new architecture, process changes, and frameworks. Often in these times, it’s important to be very clear to get the optimal result. Practising the ability to be clear in writing will transfer into how you talk, too.
3. Find your voice; develop your brand
One of the major areas of difficulty for most software developer careers is the inability to commit to one area or speciality.
You can gain insight into this problem area with writing. When you write (often) you can find yourself tending towards the same types of content. Identifying patterns in your interests is very useful information. One of the best ways to uncover your brand or speciality is to write.
Over time you’ll notice you get better at honing the content. But at first, write about whatever gets your blood pumping. Don’t worry too much about editing or writing for an audience. Use it as a research exercise into your own interests. Write code, write your stories, write advice, write whatever comes to mind.
If you are writing you are achieving greater clarity about your life, your work and what matters most. That’s enough. And more than what most people have. – Micheal Hyatt, Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World
4. Hone your teaching skills
Put yourself under greater scrutiny by teaching others. Becoming a teacher is one of the best things you can do for your career.
As software developers the ability to share knowledge is crucial. We’re doing it all the time. Yet few developers practice the art of teaching. The art of taking apart an idea and condensing it. empathising with the student and navigating communication boundaries.
It’s one thing to have knowledge. It’s another to have the ability to share it. It’s a skill that developers should aim to hone over the period of a life time. It will always be useful, no matter what strand of development we end up in.
When you teach, you also grow. Teaching can be hard. Even painful at times. If a student doesn’t grasp a concept this can be frustrating. Yet, it’s in these challenging times that we grow as professionals. As Robert Greene states in Mastery “you must move toward resistance and pain” if you are to master a subject.
5. Crystallise ideas for the future
Writing is a great way to store ideas for future. One of the best ways to start out writing is to answer a question. (Interesting fact: This blog is answering a question I’ve been asked before … “Why bother writing?”). It feels good when you can answer a question with a link to your well thought out ideas.
6. Write to clarify ideas with yourself
One of the main reasons I write is to gain clarity over questions that I wanted answering. I ask myself questions and then I endeavour to answer them. I don’t tend to write about questions that I’ve always known the answer to.
When I read about the ancient Stoics. I read about how they wrote letters to themselves and I knew they were some sort of genius. This reflective behaviour we can emulate with writing. Recording our thoughts and ideas so that we can return to them in future. As a bonus we also then get the answers to the questions we ask ourselves.
Tony Robbins believes that the questions we ask correlate to our success. When we ask ourselves questions, the brain begins trying to answer them immediately. The brain doesn’t like open loops. It wants to close them. This forces your subconscious to seek the answers. You’ll buy books about the topic or be drawn to people who have the answers. You’ll find the answer and then you can write about it.
A huge chunk of what I published is published because I felt I needed to hear it – Ryan Holiday
7. To reflect on your actions
One of the biggest keys to success is reflecting back upon our actions. If we don’t then we’re not getting the most out of our learning experiences. It’s great to seek external feedback, but we can also do self-reflection ourselves. We can self-assess improvements following an event and we can do this with our writing. Why not also share it with the world? So they can learn too?
We can write to highlight a situation. Such as having conflict or difficulty at work and how we dealt with it. Writing down obstacles – and how we overcome them helps us solidify our own behaviours.
I will keep constant watch over myself and—most usefully—will put each day up for review. – Seneca, Moral Letters
8. Build a story bank for future use (i.e. interviews!)
“Income isn’t your only currency” – Tim Ferris
Stories are currency. It’s often hard to remember the stories that have happened throughout your career. You can use stories in speaking, writing, interviews, coaching sessions … the list goes on. It can be difficult to recollect stories if you don’t commit them to paper. Writing stories down helps you to crystallise them for the future. To return on as and when you need.
The better you get at telling stories, the more effective you’ll become at persuading others – Russell Brunson, Expert Secrets
9. To build credibility and authority
When you write about a topic, you gain authority. Pick a topic niche enough and you could be the leading authority in that area. This is a big rule of marketing: remove the competition. It’s the leading premise of the book Blue Ocean Strategy. It’s also the 1st law in the 22 immutable laws of marketing.
As a developer, we are a product of sorts. Having a unique niche and proposition helps others to understand our value. It makes it easier for companies to go “This is who we need!”.
This isn’t limited to finding a new job. If you have an internal blog – writing can also generate credibility inside your company. There are many ways to leverage writing for your career success.
These are only a few reasons to write. There are lots, lots more.
One of the best ways to find out if writing is for you. And what benefits it might bring is to start. Read around the topic, gather research and information. Jot down your experiences and encapsulate them as information for others. Keep a bank of ideas and experiment with what works.
Oh, and one last quote before you go …
The market needs you (we need you) and the tools are there just waiting. All that is missing is you, your vision and your passion – Seth Godin, Tribes