There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

I started blogging a few years ago, and I must admit that writing consistently is hard. Writing requires a lot of time, and I want to highlight its benefits and what motivates me to spend more and more time on it. Writing is a lot of fun as long as you are writing for the right reasons. Here are mine.

I Write to Learn

Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.

William Zinsser

I love reading. But reading is not necessarily the best approach to learn, especially when developing skills like programming. I learn best by doing, and writing is a great way to put knowledge into practice.

However, I don’t write to share my knowledge. I write to transform it into something more interesting. Writing requires that I research more and come up with better ideas. It is the difference between knowledge telling (saying what you know) and knowledge transforming (building on what you know). I learn to write. I write to learn.

Writing is learning.

If you are curious about a subject, try to write, and you’ll learn so much more than you may imagine.

I Write to Know

I write to discover what I know.

Flannery O’Connor

Learning without getting feedback is dangerous. Many students discover they failed to master a concept during the final exam, a phenomenon called the illusion of competence.

Writing is active learning. I can only write what I have understood. Talking is different. I can talk about something that I barely understand as long as my interlocutor can fill the gaps in my explanations. Writing leaves no doubt about my understanding.

Writing is knowing.

If you understand something, try to write, and you’ll discover how limited your understanding is.

I Write to Question

Questioning is the door of knowledge.

Irish saying

After reading a few books on a subject, I often think my understanding is correct when it’s not. I write to fix these blind spots in my knowledge. Writing generates questions, and finding the answers leads to even more questions! Writing is a superpower towards expertise. “How do you become an expert on something?”, asked software engineer Eric Lippert, “Well, find a pile of questions or a place where people are asking questions about your topic. If you try and answer each one, you’ll become an expert quickly enough.”1 Writing is a great way to find this pile of questions.

Writing expands knowledge.

If you know something, try to write, and you’ll discover how little you know.

I Write to Think

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.

David McCullough

I cannot write if I do not clarify my thinking first. Writing implies formulating, developing, defending, appraising, criticizing, judging, arguing, determining, and evaluating my ideas.2 Writing is an opportunity to organize them, and more importantly, to reflect on them. Writing forces me to stop and to think deeper.

I also write to challenge my opinions. Trying to find the right words often forced me to reconsider my position on a subject. Writing allows me to step back and observe the situation with different eyes to spot incoherences in my reasoning. Common sense rarely makes sense, and writing helps me find better answers.

Writing is reflecting.

If you think you are right, try to write, and you’ll discover that truth is more complicated.

I Write to Master

Learning to write is learning to think. You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing.

Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa

I do not master most of what I use at work. For example, I work on Linux but ignore most of the kernel internals. The truth is that isn’t such a big problem. You don’t have to understand every layer between your code and the physical server running it to be a software developer. That’s the power of abstractions. But my curiosity disagrees.

Since I cannot write about what I don’t understand, I have a category on my blog to close this gap. Using UTF-8 to write my code does not mean I understand Unicode. Writing such articles is not trivial, but the satisfaction of completing them is even greater. Mastery makes me love my job even more.

Writing is mastery.

If you think you have nothing more to learn, try to write, and you’ll never stop learning.

I Write to Write

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Stephen King

Writing is a skill. It requires practice. So I write to get better at writing. I don’t care if my writing style is not as engaging as the authors I admire. We all start as beginners. Rereading an old article and finding it not so good means that I’m progressing.

In addition, I write to practice my English (I’m French). I will not get better at writing in English by reviewing my flashcards. Directness means learning in an environment close to how you intend to use the skill. If I want to write fluently in English, I have to write in English. Period.

Writing is a skill.

If you think writing is easy, try to write, and you’ll change your mind.

I Write to Play

You can make anything by writing.

C.S. Lewis

Written words are special. You can read them at any pace. You can even reread them and understand something completely new. There are a finite number of words, but you can combine them indefinitely.

Finding the right words, the right punctuation, the right sequence of sentences, the right length of paragraphs is a complex task, but a very creative one. I really appreciate writing and editing, editing, editing.

Writing unleashes creativity.

If you think writing is boring, try to write, and you’ll face so many new paths to explore.

I Write to Talk

I think a lot, but I don’t say much.

Anne Frank

As an introvert, It’s hard to express my thoughts clearly when too many eyes are on me. Introverts think before they speak, and I often keep my mouth shut to let the conversation continues.3 Writing is different. It helps me express my ideas in a format that I can be proud of. Writing is the shy person’s stage.4 Not everything I write is great but trust me, it’s far better than what I would have articulated.

I also think writing is great not just for introverts. Many top companies like Amazon or Twitter understand its importance in preparing a meeting.5 Focusing on writing ”[…] totally revolutionizes the way we do meetings at Amazon,” declared Jeff Bezos. Writing is the soil on which talking can grow. Writing forces you to use both brain hemispheres to come up with your best ideas. Talking cannot do that.

Writing is talking.

If you avoid talking, try to write, and you’ll never stop writing.

I Write to Myself

Writing for yourself is a powerful search mechanism: there’s no better way to find out who you are and what you know and what you think.

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

I always write for myself, even if I focus on a well-defined audience.6 If someone appreciates my writing, that’s a bonus as I have already learned so much from writing. I think every developer must write. You cannot develop large applications alone and the best way to communicate your intent, your logic, your ideas, is to put them down.

Writing is personal.

If you have nothing to share, try to write what you would like to read, and you’ll have a lot to share.

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

Writing is a fantastic learning tool. I write because I want to learn and because I learned to love writing. As always, passion is the best motivation.7 Attracting an audience, promoting yourself, or making money are wrong reasons to start writing. They are just side-effects. Writing is an opportunity to create opportunities, and it begins with a blank page. Now it’s up to you.







  6. It happens most successful bloggers write for themselves too.


About the author

Julien Sobczak works as a software developer for Scaleway, a French cloud provider. He is a passionate reader who likes to see the world differently to measure the extent of his ignorance. His main areas of interest are productivity (doing less and better), human potential, and everything that contributes in being a better person (including a better dad and a better developer).

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