Why should developers write? 3 reasons and 3 common blocks

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To keep up to date with new technologies and practices, developers naturally find themselves reading technical articles. But have you thought about writing one? In this post, we’ll explain how to start—and why it’s worth it in the first place.

All developers create code, but only some write. Yet, writing helps expand career opportunities, develop professional skills, and share your ideas and knowledge within the community at large.

Still, despite these benefits, many struggle to take the first step: perhaps it’s difficult to choose a concept, deal with the potential for negative feedback, or there is a tendency to procrastinate.

In this article, we’ll look at 3 reasons that make breaking through any of these obstacles to publish your writing worth the effort, and we’ll look at 3 potential blockers and how to overcome them.

Then, in the next post of this series, we’ll share actionable items for those ready to take the next step, but first, we need to circle back to a critical question:

Why is it valuable to write technical articles?

Let’s tackle 3 reasons that writing a technical article/post is worth your time in the first place.

Reason 1: Published articles can expand your work portfolio and expand your career opportunities

First of all, the presence of published articles are a clear sign that a developer is committed to professional self-improvement.

Employers can quickly recognize that a developer is dedicated to their profession at a level that goes beyond just “a job”. All of this is naturally attractive to companies who are hiring.

Next, writing gives employers the ability to analyze something beyond just your technical skills: your writing abilities.

This is important because writing and composition skills often come with a high level of communication skills, and many employers highly appreciate this. In the book Getting Real from 37signals, they shared the following:

If you are trying to decide between a few people to fill a position, always hire the better writer.

But what about those who are already employed?

This brings us to a third point: in many cases, managers or team leads will consider the publication of articles as an additional positive factor for promotion.

And, if you want to change your job, having some publications under your belt could make you more well-known as a specialist, and open new job opportunities to you.

So, if you want to improve your career in general, beginning your writing practice is a great first step.

Reason 2: When you write about something, you investigate the topic deeper.

One of the biggest challenges when writing a technical article is making the text as clear as possible for a range of readers, all of whom come with different backgrounds and stores of knowledge.

Facilitating a satisfactory level of clarity is only really possible when you possess a sufficiently deep understanding about your topic of choice. As Dr. Micheal A. Covington writes in How to Write More Clearly, Think More Clearly, and Learn Complex Material More Easily:

Clear writing leads to clear thinking. You don’t know what you know until you try to express it.

To that end, before writing an article, we must research the relevant material, find existing literature or similar articles, and in some cases, we must write code to provide a clear practical example for readers—and all this involves diving deeper into the subject, and thus, it invites an increase of our own understanding of the topic.

One more thing: don’t be afraid to write articles on topics that you don’t understand at a deep level if you have a strong desire to do so. The big thing here is to spend time conducting a thorough, detailed study during the preparatory stage in order to explain difficult things to readers (and to yourself) in a comprehensive way.

Writing is an opportunity to clarify your understanding and teach yourself further.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that creating a technical article is essentially a process of teaching the readers, and, as a Latin proverb states, “In teaching others, we teach ourselves”.

Reason 3: Publishing articles allows you to be involved with and further develop the software engineering community

Working in software engineering, we’re constantly learning in order to stay up to date with new technologies.

But this process often exists outside of any career demands: many of us, in our free time, work on our own projects, read technical articles, discuss technical questions with each other …or argue about them.

All of these things contribute in one way or another to the development of the overall industry ecosystem, and writing articles is yet another way we can enrich our involvement in the software engineering community, and to further develop it.

How, exactly? Publishing articles allows us to share important (or even unique) ideas about development, design, and business.

A good article can expand a reader’s knowledge on a topic in just fifteen minutes! And your writing can be especially valuable if it concerns a topic that has generally been poorly covered otherwise.

Additionally, new approaches and ideas often truly take hold as the result of writing.

There are actually so many more benefits to consider, and at some level this is going to be an individual process of discovery. Still, once you’ve made the decision that you want to do this, that’s half the battle won.

The other half of is cracking your first article, so up next, let’s look at some common blockers that aspiring authors in our field often face—and how to solve them.

Blocker 1: I don’t know what to write about!

Finding a topic to write about is usually the most difficult challenge we face, and this one usually rears its ugly head right at the beginning of the process.

So, what to write about? Let’s try to find a way to break the ice by drawing an analogy with the technical side of our work.

Try to remember the last time when you had some challenge on the job, like implementing a complex feature. Did you research the problem, and did uncovering new information about it help? For instance, were there other people who had already struggled to do the same thing you were trying?

In fact, this experience can be a good starting point for a new article! You can describe the journey that saw you overcoming obstacles and finding the ultimate solution. You could also write about the technologies and tools you used to solve your specific problem (just make sure you don’t violate any NDA rules).

It doesn’t necessarily matter if a topic has been covered because your experience hasn’t been. Practical studies and experiences can often be just as valuable (or more valuable) than documentation.

Or, let’s look at another jumping-off point: sometimes article ideas can spring to life as the result of some fiery discussions with your colleagues or fellow developers.

If a hot topic sufficiently draws your interest, this means that it could easily be relevant to other people as well. With a point of view supported by arguments, evidence, or experiments, you can create an article based on both your own beliefs and facts.

Who knows? Articles and posts can be less ephemeral than social media, and it may be your idea that sticks around and sets off the industry in a new direction.

If nothing comes to mind after reading the above, try making a little reminder to yourself: the next time you have a difficult challenge at work, or an interesting discussion with colleagues who have different points of view, pay attention to this! Make notes and reflect upon the discussion, as this could be the genesis of your next article.

Identifying topics for article creation is a skill that can be honed, but the first step is to shift your mindset into a mode of openness so that when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be able to recognize it for what it is.

Blocker 2: I’m afraid of negative feedback (or a lack of exposure)

This is just a fact: your first article will almost certainly be worse than your tenth article—and this is true for just about any other skill you’d practice in life. (Of course, there’s also the chance that even your first post will be something popular and valuable to the community!)

In any case, each new article that you work on allows you to gain useful writing experience, expand your portfolio, and contribute to the community.

Seriously, there’s no need to worry if your first article will become popular immediately—this mentality can be a huge mental blocker and prevent you from making progress.

Here are also a few ways how you can increase the amount of exposure and feedback for your article:

  • For publishing, try to find a platform with a large and friendly community of developers, for example, dev.to or medium.com
  • Don’t hesitate to share your article on social media with your followers
  • Ask people whose opinions you value if they can read your article. Listen to their feedback to learn from it
  • Seek out relevant newsletters: depending on your topic, there are many widely distributed email newsletters; and they often accept submissions

Don’t fear negative feedback—it’s good! A bit of criticism can allow you to improve the material or learn something new.

A final note: it pays to keep in mind that sometimes negative feedback may not consist of fair criticism, but of aggressive comments. Think about the personal value of entertaining such commentary. Will reflecting on it actually help you improve? Our advice: don’t take it personally.

Blocker 3: I have problems with procrastination, and my attempts to write something usually end without results.

If you want to write but just find that you procrastinate or put off the task endlessly, that can be a sign that because your brain feels the task is not so easy, enjoyable, or that you have a lack of comprehension surrounding the topic.

Here’s some advice to fix this:

  • Try to take small steps–don’t set yourself the overwhelming task of writing everything at once. For instance, start with an article outline: define the purpose of the article and its main ideas. This can be more of a rough sketch, or a skeleton. Then, begin to fill in the structure and then expand on each point.
  • Don’t complicate your task by trying to write the perfect text right away. Write the first version of your draft first; then re-read it, correct any mistakes, cut out unnecessary things, and edit what you didn’t like. Repeat this several times until the text is easy and pleasant to read.
  • Promise yourself a pleasant reward when you finish your article! Give yourself praise every time you take up the keyboard to write another piece of text: this means you’ve chosen to improve your skills and invest in yourself–and that’s a good thing!

Writing is a skill like any other, and there are many ways it can go for you: it can become a hobby, provide numerous opportunities for yourself, and can even inspire the future.

And here’s the most important piece of advice: don’t doubt yourself.

Behind the author of every excellent piece of text is the story of someone who also began down this path at one time or another. Stay tuned for our next article, where we’ll keep the wheels rolling!

At Evil Martians, we transform growth-stage startups into unicorns, build developer tools, and create open source products. If you’re ready to engage warp drive, give us a shout!

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