Ask HN: Why don't people write more (from their expertise)? | Hacker News


> 4) When I look at a blank text document or piece of paper, I sometimes feel a feeling of dread which makes me want to take a roofing nail and scrape it across my forearm until I draw blood. I've never done this, and I've been getting a lot better at managing the feeling.

I have this problem a lot. Brand new thing, whatever it is, pristine state. You don't want to fuck it up. So you just, don't. Of course the paper is meant to be written on, and the file is meant to be written in. Write a single sentence. Just one. Your thesis. Your question. Anything. Now it's just on the page my itself, and possibly in the wrong spot. Crap, you've ruined the pristine blank space. Time to fill it up. Once I start writing though, I pretty much don't stop.

> 10) I can, in general, find it difficult to organise my thoughts. Beyond a certain length of ramble, writing requires structure so that you can look back on what you wrote and think of what needs to be said next. Coming up with that structure is hard and I have very little practice in it. That is why I wrote this response in BuzzFeed listicle style: to give myself a structure.

Then this is your structure. Maybe not the final one, but it's the initial one. Use it. I do this in a number of my posts here. Not the top-ten-list format but as a numbered list. And if this helps you to get started, make that first draft or maybe even the final draft, run with it.

> 7) I am not very practiced at writing for an audience, actually taking into account how they would interpret what I'm saying, and then getting feedback as to how well I've done. Therefore this takes longer.

> 9) I don't knot that I have a group of people with whom I can check my drafts and who will spend the time/effort to give me feedback and help me organize my ideas better.

You've got this community. Yes, they can sometimes be harsh, but it's here. And harsh can be good sometimes. A big lesson for me early in my career was to receive criticism while letting go of my ego. Whatever is said (even if what they say is a personal attack and not a proper critique) is about the thing, and not me. Take what they say and use it (or not, if you deem it to be wrong or inapplicable).

> 2) When I start writing, multiple competing and mutually exclusive descriptions of reality try to press themselves out of my head at once. My instinct is to try to resolve the confusion of ideas before getting the ideas out on paper, and that doesn't work.

Man, my notes are all over the place. I have 100 ideas in my head at once. But writing them down clears a lot of things up, especially after a few iterations of editing. I can start by talking about how to use git, and somehow end up talking about the theory of constraints. By writing it down I end up with content that can be reshaped into several (more coherent) discussions. A brain dump is actually a massively useful starting point. A nice freeform stream of consciousness style writing exercise. Go back once you're done and read it, highlight (or write onto other pages or documents) your theses and begin moving content around to properly express your ideas and the connections between them.

Like my mention above, there actually is a connection between theory of constraints and git in what I wrote. Specifically about reducing a constraint, that was adding time to the development process, by changing the way we coordinated code development activities and code integration (between branches) versus the old way (TFS or SVN with strict controls on branching, no local version control). I work in an office where they think they're doing ToC but really the management doesn't know shit and is checking boxes. I hate non-value added activities and sought to address my concerns with what we were doing to check those boxes by finding a value added change we could actually implement that would address a real constraint in how a number of our projects work. But the connection was non-obvious in the initial discussion and my initial writings because it was too rambling. By recreating my stream of consciousness spoken words on paper (or an org-file in that case) I was able to address the problem. (Ultimately I convinced one guy on one project, and he ran with it, his project is now one of the most productive in the office.)