Graham McGregor

On Writing

February 07, 2019

When was the last time you sat, and thought?

Writing is a form of thinking. Expressing thought in written form forces us to solidify the idea, to distil the vague floating concept. To write is to define a thought, to give it shape, in a way that another person can see.

What we often forget, is that other person is often our future selves. Taking notes is a way to communicate across time to a future you. I sometimes find that a useful perspective to write from. Making a note today acts as a reference library, a run book, that we can use to augment our memories.

I don't think I'm a great writer. I don't know if I will be. But who cares. This blog is a place to write notes to my future self. A place to look back on in a year and beyond and say, "Oh yeah. I learned something. And here's proof."

An article that spurred me to start writing again was Just Write by Sara Soueidan. It's a ~6 minute read that I highly recommend.

I'm going to start taking notes of "what I learned today" and makes short articles from that. If nothing else it will act a reference for myself to come back to when I inevitably forget how to do a thing.

The Process

Dumping thoughts is good. Write with abandon. Typo? Keep going. Grammar? For suckers. Get those thoughts out. Let it flow, let it go.

The next step is to rewrite it all. Rewriting is where the quality starts to come in. We've got all this raw material and now we're going to shape it into something. Something more elegant than the pile that came out of the dump truck.

Is rewriting once enough? Consider another iteration. Try reading it out loud, listening to how it flows. Once we think it's good enough, there's still room for improvement. We can ratchet up the quality a bit more by passing it off to a couple trusted readers for feedback. Before we do that though, pass the post through a spell checker. An iteration from a machine is far quicker and saves human effort.

Everyone has their own writing process, and I far from any kind of expert but this my process so far.

A Writing Prompt

Not sure what to write about? Here's an idea. Run this command to get a list of your 20 most used shell commands.

$ cat ~/.bash_history | sort | uniq -c | sort -h -r | head -n 20

I bet there's something interesting in there. Some shortcut that you know about that other people might not. Or a unique workflow that you can share.

If you want to see more things from Graham McGregor in the future, you should follow him on twitter!