On Writing

I like writing code. I like writing documentation. I like writing specs. I like writing e-mail and letters. I like wikis. I like writing in my blog. I like writing.

What do I like about writing? I like the process of organizing my thoughts and seeing them on paper/screen. I like continually revising what I write; I can never make it perfect, but I can always make it better. It's nice when other people read and comment on what I write, but what I like about writing is personal and internal.

I've toyed with the idea of becoming a professional writer. In a way, I already am, as a programmer is really a writer of a very specialized kind of writing. However, I'd like to be a "real" writer: one who gets articles and books published and spends most of his time writing English prose rather than a mishmash of math and symbolic logic.

Unfortunately, I don't know how I can make a living at writing. I don't know what I could write that I could get paid for. There have been times in my career when I could have written really good technical books about implementing ActiveX controls and containers with MFC and ATL, or about developing CORBA applications. I never had the time to write those books, and now those subjects are no longer interesting to anyone.

When I was developing Remoting.Corba, one of my dreams was that it would become popular enough to warrant publication of a book. The content of the Remoting.Corba wiki, bulked up with a bunch of screenshots and appendices, would have made a book that is at least as good as most of the books in the Computers section of the bookstore. The project died, but that wiki still stands as the most book-like thing I've written. I submitted a R.C article at the request of a Microsoft employee for publication on the MSDN web site, but interest in R.C waned before it was published.

I don't have the depth of knowledge to write good technical books about current subjects, because I am now a primarily a manager and I don't get to spend enough time delving into new stuff. Maybe there could be a .NET book or a Cocoa book in my future, but right now I really don't have anything to teach anyone about programming.

I've been told that I have a gift for explaining things to non-techies without dumbing it down too much, so I've considered writing books or articles targeted at people who have to deal with technology but don't understand it. A subject area that I've considered is the interaction between software developers, customers, and managers. My working title is Talking to Techies. The work would be an attempt to explain to non-techies how they can best get what they want when they need assistance from software developers, network administrators, and technical support personnel. Too often, I see communication between these groups break down, as the non-techies don't accurately or completely specify what they need, and the techies provide a useless solution or no solution because they don't understand the needs or think they are being asked to perform impossible tasks. A companion book could be targeted at the techie audience who doesn't know how to explain issues to non-techies.

I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event. This is a "contest" where participants must write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. Entries are not judged; anyone who writes a novel with 50,000 words is a winner. I wanted to do this, but now I don't think I will: I don't have time, and I don't have a story in mind. Instead of trying to write a novel, I'm currently reading Robert McKee's Story in the hope that maybe I can develop an interesting story for next year's NaNoWriMo.

While I'm ruminating about all the books I'd like to write, I'll just keep scribbling in this blog, sending too many e-mails to my co-workers, and contributing to wikis. I hope that if I just keep writing, I'll eventually find a book in there somewhere.

© 2003-2023 Kristopher Johnson