On Writing

This post was prompted by reading A Time To Write by Wadds, open it in a new tab on your browser and give it a read.
Cover on my old book
Given Wadds’ post I thought I would reflect briefly on my own process.

Why I write?

Wadds describes his writing as a kind of mindfulness.  For me writing serves a number of purposes:

  • It cements things in my memory, a bit like revision at school
  • It helps me work out ideas and my stance on them
  • Its a good platform for experiments. I started off my blogging to work out how it could help clients that I couldn’t get media coverage for. This was back before social media was a thing. At the moment I am using this blog  as part of an experiment on LinkedIn Pulse as a source of traffic. More on that when I have a decent set of data
  • Occasionally decent conversations spark of these posts, some of my good friends are online
  • There is a more talented fighter than I, also called Ged Carroll. I like to have a clear differentiator from him
  • My blog is also a marketing calling card, I have got jobs from it over the years.

Wadds talks about why people don’t write, he describes it as effort and bravery. I suspect its a bit more complex. Yes life does get in the way for many people, but many of my friends have their own creative outlets: painting, photography, the art of social conversation, mastering video games to name but three.  For me writing extends out of curiosity, it is a natural progression – otherwise ideas would vanish into the ether.

In terms of bravery, Wadds talks about the willingness to share private or personal subjects. I generally don’t, the reason is quite simple. Growing up in an Irish household, my time was predominantly spent in the UK during The Troubles, I grew up with the idea of the pervasive, invasive surveillance state. I grew up with a personal perception of what could be called ‘operational security’ (Op-Sec). The future has finally caught up.

Workflow

You can break my workflow down into four sections:

  • Ideation.  Ideas broadly come from reading something or the world around me. If it is something on the world around me, I will make some bullets in the notes application of my iPhone.  If it is a talk I will have likely recorded it using Olympus’ free dictation app for the iPhone. If it is from reading a book, I am likely to put post-it notes on the relevant pages with some notes and then flick back through this as I write a post. I have aversion to writing on the books themselves. I have found that I don’t get much out of reading on a Kindle, so only use that for leisure reading now. If  I am inspired by something I have seen, there will be a picture on Flickr, which also serves as the image hosting platform for this blog. I have about 46 GB of images in my Flickr account – it would take a major tectonic event to persuade me to move to another platform like 500px. I have a Twitter account with a set of lists that provide inspiration and use Newsblur as an RSS reader as well. Newsblur is invaluable. I am currently trying Breaking News, an app recommended by Richard Edelman and occasionally dip into Apple’s own News app. When I have online content that has spurred a writing idea I will notate it in my bookmark service pinboard.in
  • Writing. My writing method varies based on two criteria; the regularity of the post and the length of the post. If you’ve read my blog for a length of time you will see that there are repeating themes. Every two days is a collection of interesting links from around the web. These posts are based on content that I bookmark. There is a post on Friday for interesting creative or useful things, again this pretty much writes itself based on my bookmarks as I ingest the web. At the moment I am publishing slides of data that I have collected on a monthly basis, I usually write a bit of analysis on the some of the data that I have surfaced. This just flows out easily. For short irregular posts they are often a stream of consciousness with minimal editing directly into WordPress. Longer posts are often mind-mapped onto engineering squared paper and then written into Hemingway
  • Editing. Unlike Wadds, I don’t have an editor. I use Hemingway app as a machine-based editor. My fact-checking happens before words are committed to the posts in my reading around
  • Syndication. I syndicate my content using plumbing that I have put int place using IFTTT and WordPress’ own JetPack plug-in. When I syndicate to Medium and LinkedIn this is done manually.

Wadds’ talks about mindfulness in writing. I don’t necessarily think that its the same for me.  That feeling of being in the zone is something I get more from DJ’ing ironically, or focusing on a mundane task. Writing is more about making fleeting ideas permanent. It is also written with at least half an eye on my work.

More information
Olympus Dictation app
Flickr
Newsblur
Twitter lists
pinboard.in
Breaking News app
IFTTT
JetPack
Medium

3 thoughts on “On Writing”

  1. Always interesting to find out how other people work. A similar post has been on my ‘blog ideas’ list for ages, so you and Wadds might have prompted me to actually do it.

    Just one quick comment on syndicating to LinkedIn and Medium. LinkedIn is a pain as you can’t easily automate syndication, but for Medium I use an IFTTT recipe “New blog post to Medium draft”. I like that it gets it ready for me, but doesn’t actually publish. Would be great if I could do the same on LinkedIn.

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