Listening to the clues about what’s working well: writing

I write down things I’m puzzling out, and I write down hints of things I might be good at. It’s useful to do both. Writing about my challenges helps me understand them better, and I often hear from people who identify with me, learn from me, and even share their own tips. Writing about my little successes seems a little more self-serving and egotistic, but it helps me pay attention to clues life gives me, celebrate the small stuff, and remember the good things. I’m looking for ways to make the most of this five-year experiment, so I’m on the lookout for strengths that I can build on.

At the last Visual Thinkers Toronto meetup, someone told me that how I share on my blog is working. People in the Emacs IRC channel tell me that they enjoy reading my posts. I often find myself sending people links to posts, sometimes posts that are years old.

So this writing thing… Hmm. Might be something there. What are some of the things I do in a way that might be different from others? If I can name those characteristics, I can then improve or at least retain them. =)

  • I write a lot. People boggle at this because they struggle to write once a week or even once a month. I write a lot because it’s my default way of thinking. There are a few things I think about privately, in sketchbooks and in text files on my computer. I share as much as I can on the Internet, though. It makes sense to do so – I can help other people along the way, and it’s easier for me to remember something if I can either Google it or ask someone to help me remember what I called it.
  • I write with happiness and enthusiasm. I’m naturally happy, I guess (happiness set point and all), and I consciously develop my ability to be happy. Not necessarily bouncing-up-and-down happy, more like… at peace with life. Besides, I have a pretty awesome life, so it’s easy to be happy about it. =)
  • I follow my curiosity. Can Emacs do …? How do I …? There’s no end to the questions I can ask, and therefore no end to the things I can learn and write about. It’s a privilege to have the space to be curious about things, so I try to justify that privilege by sharing as much as I can.
  • I’m good at analysis. I enjoy picking my thoughts and feelings apart in order to explain them. I like reading and I’m growing to enjoy listening to people, and that’s how I learn to recognize patterns and name them. I’m not super-awesome at it – lots of cognitive biases to work around! – but there’s hope for me yet. =)
  • What if I could get even better at this? What would better look like, if I built this up over decades?

Imagining the future:

Writing gives me an excuse to be curious. I write about useful and interesting topics in a positive, straightforward, well-reasoned, and creative way.

On occasion, I sit down and develop a topic much further, taking a comprehensive look at something instead of the scattershot approach of spur-of-the-moment blog posts. I review and summarize things I write about a lot, compiling them into blog posts and books.

Lots of conversations grow out of my writing, and my writing grows out of conversations. It’s an excellent way to hack around introversion, because people talk to me.

Even tough situations in life – deaths and other inevitable losses – become fodder for writing, as I try to understand and grow.

Because I write a lot, people can filter the topics to focus on what they’re most interested in, but still stumble across my other interests from time to time. I remember how to find things and can send people links quickly. I maintain an index to help people find things again, and I periodically browse random posts to jog my memory.

I keep my life simple so that I have the freedom to write about what interests me (no corporate shush policy) and to spend time pursuing what makes me curious. It might not be a glamorous life, but it’s a fun one. I save people time and open up new possibilities. I constrain my lifestyle to my budget, so people’s purchases or donations are icing on the cake – money that I use to learn even more, to connect with more people, to experiment with other ideas and tools, and to make strategic differences in other people’s lives. That way, I can always be surprised and happy when people give me some of their time (both in terms of attention and in terms of money, because money is time after all).

I manage to escape the nastiness that the Internet can sometimes have, or I survive it.

I live an awesome and well-documented life, and I make it easier for thousands of people to build on what I’m learning.

People want to avoid boasting, so it’s easy to downplay ourselves and brush off people who are giving us clues about what we might be good at. Knowing that tendency in myself, I’m learning to say “Thank you!” and examine these things with the same curiosity I want to bring to the rest of life. I ask the universe, “Why is that? And how wonderful can it be?” I can also ask myself.