Last year I read Weinberg on Writing, and I’ve been thinking about its ideas a lot since. It focuses on the concept of “The Fieldstone Method” of writing, which I’d summarize as (1) writing things that energize you and (2) approaching writing organically rather than linearly. Lose the excitement for your current project? Work on something else for a while. Find a fantastic idea that doesn’t fit into this article? Add it to a pile of related concepts to come back to later.
Some of Weinberg’s specific suggestions don’t mesh with my writing process, but many of them do. It helped me finally articulate something that’s been increasingly clear over the past couple of years. There’s an increasing gap between the kind of writing I find energizing and the writing that folks expect to read on Irrational Exuberance. The gap isn’t huge by any stretch, but there’s really no way to convince folks reading your blog to stop reporting typos. Even thinking that idea feels ungrateful to the time folks spend letting me know about my mistakes.
Digging into the mismatch between the kinds of things I want to write and the kinds of things that Irrational Exuberance readers want to read, I identified three rough categories:
- Content I create for a larger project or preparing for a talk, e.g., most stuff with the tag staff-plus was for Staff Engineer
- Articles I hope are actually good, matching most folks expectations of a professional’s blog, e.g. A forty year career and Your first 90 days as CTO or VP Engineering.
- Writing something down to get it out of my head without forgetting it entirely. This is essentially using the blog as a digital garden. These are generally rough, quick takes on things like Why not create a StaffEng Slack or Discord? And My skepticism towards current developer meta-productivity tools.
This mix has felt intuitive to me but has very reasonably not been intuitive to a vocal subset of well-intentioned readers. I’ve been pondering how to make this simpler. One idea that I almost went with was excluding wiki content from the mailing list or RSS feed, but that’s not quite right: it’s not that I don’t want folks engaging with the wiki content; it’s just that I want a different expectation of completeness.
I’m going to continue writing the first two kinds on Irrational Exuberance.
I’m moving the third category to a new area, Exuberant Sketches. There’s an RSS feed but no mailing list, and the stuff up there so far is a total mess (mostly exports of a dozen google docs into Markdown). It’s totally possible that it won’t go anywhere, but it’ll be a fun experiment either way and as part of that experiment, I’ll try to remember to spell-check stuff I post here going forward. (No guarantees.)